MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County lawmakers have decided to wait another month before acting on a local law to increase the legal age for purchasing tobacco products.
On Wednesday during the Chautauqua County Legislature’s monthly voting session, legislator Mark Tarbrake (R-Jamestown), who sponsored the local law, announced it would be tabled.
The announcement came after seven people spoke during the legislature’s public comment, with three of them representing businesses that oppose the increase, while four were from anti-tobacco organizations that were in favor of the increase.
Tarbrake said the tabling came after a number of legislators requested more time and information on the impacts of raising the legal age to purchase tobacco and nicotine products to 21, with the main concern surrounding the potential economic impact.
“There was concern from a number of legislators that they needed more information. I’ll be honest. I’m in full support of this local law,” Tarbrake said following the meeting. “I think it needs to pass in this county for the sake of our young children. It’s fine that the other legislators wanted to have more information. The people who spoke here tonight were well spoken, gave their view on both sides of the issue and I think that will help and hopefully next month we can pass this local law.”
According to the language in the proposal, the legal age for buying tobacco products would be increased from 18 to 21 for several reasons. They include a recent study that found Chautauqua County has the ninth highest smoking rates in New York State (27.8 percent) and most of the county’s residents who smoke began doing so before the age of 21.
he local law also cites an national report from the federal Food and Drug Administration, entitled “Public Health Implications of Raising the Minimum Age of Legal Access to Tobacco Products,” which found that nicotine has an adverse physiological effect on brain development in adolescents, and that by raising the minimum legal age, it will likely immediately improve the health of adolescents and young adults by reducing the number of those exposed to those effects.
One of those who spoke in favor of the local law was county public health director Christine Schuyler, who said following the meeting that she was surprised the law would be tabled.
“This has been underway with the board of health since October,” Schuyler said. “I think it is important, if the legislature needs more information and needs more time to study this, that they have the time do so. I think they will make a much more informed decision that reflects the best interest of the people in the county when they have the ample time to do so. I’d rather see it tabled than have a decision made in haste that isn’t going to be good, one way or the other.”
One of the three individuals who spoke against the measure was Jamestown resident and business owner Brian Ellis, who runs Yeti Vape in the Third Street Plaza. Ellis said that by including e-cigarette products in the ban, it will prevent adults between 18 and 20 years who are already addicted to nicotine from being able to buy e-cigarette products to help quit smoking. He said that considering e-cigarettes have not been proven to be as harmful as traditional tobacco products, they shouldn’t be included in the proposed law. He also cited an economic impact on local business, with smokers in the 18 to 20 age group going to nearby Pennsylvania or Erie and Cattaraugus Counties in New York to purchase tobacco products.
Following a 15 to 1 vote to table the measure, Tarbrake said it will likely be taken up again during next month’s voting session. The local law needs at least 10 votes from the legislature before it can go to County Executive Vince Horrigan for his consideration. Horrigan would also be required to hold a public hearing on the local law prior to signing or vetoing the measure.