MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan has signed a local law that will increase the legal age to purchase tobacco products in the county from 18 to 21.
On Tuesday Horrigan signed the local law that had been approved by a 13-6 margin last month by the Chautauqua County Legislature.
Horrigan signed the law after holding a public hearing last week that featured several individuals from throughout the county who spoke both in favor and against the law.
After signing the law the county executive released the following statement:
I applaud and thank so many members of our community and small businesses that offered their perspective on this legislation. Over 60 comments were received through public commentary, emails, letters, and phone calls. I especially want to acknowledge over 20 young high school students who took the time to engage me on this legislation.
Clearly there were several important points of view that weighed on my decision making process in order to reach a decision. On the one hand our small businesses need all the help they can garner to counter rising New York State minimum wage pressures, high taxes, and skyrocketing workers’ compensation costs. On the other hand, the health risks and addiction nature of tobacco are undisputable and so often young adults begin using these products during high school years. Still others said that if you are old enough to fight for your country, you are old enough to buy tobacco products. As a retired 27 year senior officer of the Air Force, I join with many other military leaders in the perspective that tobacco products are a threat to our military readiness and too often compromise the health of our professional military who put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms. As far as traveling to other counties to buy tobacco products, while true, I predict that other New York State counties will soon follow the lead of Chautauqua County.
In reaching my decision, I used a balancing test. Does the opinion of a supermajority of our legislators, the testimony and emails of our high school young adults, the testimony of our health professionals, and the facts surrounding the addictive nature of tobacco in 18 to 20 year olds outweigh the loss of some business revenue by county government raising the age from 18 to 21 for the sale of tobacco products in Chautauqua County? I came to a conclusion that it does.
I thank Chautauqua County Health Commissioner Christine Schuyler, the Chautauqua County Board of Health, and Chautauqua County Legislator Mark Tarbrake, for their leadership on this important health initiative.
Supporters of the law say it will help to reduce smoking among young adults when they are at an age when they are more likely to try smoking and become addicted. Currently the county has one of the highest smoking rates among all counties in New York State and is well above the state average.
The local law will take effect Oct. 1, 2016. Any store that is caught selling tobacco to anyone under 21 years of age will face a fine similar to the one currently imposed for selling to anyone under 18.