Tompkins County
New York


Adoption of Local Law No. 2 of 2017 – A Local Law Raising the Legal Age to 21 for Tobacco Sale and Purchase


Department:Health DepartmentSponsors:
Category:Public HealthFunctions:Local Law


  1. Printout
  2. Tompkins County DRAFT T21 (2) without Findings (This file has not yet been converted to a viewable format)
  3. T21 justification (This file has not yet been converted to a viewable format)
  4. LLb of 2017 (This file has not yet been converted to a viewable format)
  5. LL2-17 as Adopted

Resolution/Document Body

                            WHEREAS, a public hearing has been held before the Tompkins County Legislature to hear all persons interested in proposed Local Law No. 2 of 2017, and


                            WHEREAS, the Tompkins County Legislature has determined that adoption of Local Law No. 2 of 2017 is in the public interest, now therefore be it


                            RESOLVED, on recommendation of the Tompkins County Board of Health and the Health and Human Services Committee, That proposed Local Law No. 2 of 2017 - A Local Law Raising the Legal Age to 21 for Tobacco Sale and Purchase is hereby adopted,


                            RESOLVED, further, That the Clerk of the Board shall publish in the official newspaper of the County a notice of adoption containing a synopsis of said local law and shall within twenty days file one certified copy in the Office of the County Clerk, and one copy with the Secretary of State.



Meeting History

Dec 19, 2016 3:30 PM  Health and Human Services Committee Regular Meeting
RESULT:NO ACTION TAKENNext: 3/20/2017 4:30 PM
Mar 20, 2017 4:30 PM  Health and Human Services Committee Regular Meeting

Ms. Chock requested the minutes reflect her reason for not voting in favor of this resolution is because the definitions included the words “other products and equipment” and further believes there should be a ban of the sale of tobacco county-wide.

Mr. Burbank requested the minutes reflect his vote in favor was to move this action to the Legislature but has serious concerns about this and does not plan to support it at the Legislature meeting.

MOVER:Peter Stein, Member
SECONDER:Anna Kelles, Chair
AYES:Anna Kelles, Will Burbank, Peter Stein
NAYS:Carol Chock
EXCUSED:Leslyn McBean-Clairborne
Apr 18, 2017 5:30 PM Media Tompkins County Legislature Regular Meeting
May 2, 2017 5:30 PM Media Tompkins County Legislature Regular Meeting

Ms. Kelles said she appreciates the varying opinions on this issue. As a promoter of public health she spoke of the impacts smoking has on targeted groups that are already facing many pressures and adding health disparities is an atrocity. She clarified after speaking with a youth yesterday that this action is not criminalization legislation; it is a fine for businesses that sell tobacco products. It is implemented and regulated through the sale. Also, when talking about e-cigarettes and one of the traceable substances found in them is benzene, which has caused some of the most harm to our natural environment. She said this is an attempt to try to break the relationship between 18 year olds and the 13-17 year olds. Evidence shows that the average age of starting smoking is 13 and this will help break that relationship.

Mr. John said this is one of the more difficult votes he has had to consider since becoming a Legislator. He represents a lot of the Cornell University and Ithaca College students and this is taking away some freedoms. It will also have a real impact on business owners. The County wants to support businesses on the Commons and this will impact a segment of their clientele. He thanked Mr. Bentley for his comments and Public Health Director Frank Kruppa for his educating him. He struggles with the issue of vapes and whether they are a gateway or exit but studies have shown they are connected to dual use. This is about 16 sand 17 year olds and if you can get them to an age where they can make better decisions, you can make a difference.

Mr. Sigler understands the health impacts of smoking. However, this is about 18 year-old adults and they have rights and are allowed to make decisions including big decisions. He spoke of his belief that the rise of the drinking age had an impact on other things, including an increase in the use of drugs and an enormous rise in binge drinking. He also spoke of many other things where poor decisions are being made and where laws could also be adopted.

Mr. Burbank agreed with comments by Mr. Sigler. This is a very difficult decision as described by Mr. John and said he has received numerous e-mails and messages and appreciates the comments that have been shared. The negative effects of smoking are indisputable. There are other things in our lives that cause harm and in New York State at age 18 one is legally an adult. He said if it is made harder for young adults to buy cigarettes it will have a positive impact on some youth.

Mr. Stein said he is also troubled by taking away rights of 18 year olds who are legally an adult; he also thinks the positive impacts have been overstated and thinks 18-20 year olds will find an alternative way to purchase cigarettes, such as over the Internet. He believes it will not do any good and may do harm as people may want to do something they are being forbidden to do.

Ms. Chock said no one thinks it is a good idea for 18-20 year olds to smoke. She spoke of how she had hoped this body could reach a compromise on this as it has on many other issues in the past. She also spoke of how her district includes the majority of the Cornell campus and upper Collegetown and it is important for students to respect and follow the laws. There are parts of this law that are not based on scientific research and will bother the educated youth as it does her. She would vote for this if it didn’t include things that she considered overreaching such as the language “or any combination thereof” in the definition section for “Shisha”. She said a case can be made for tobacco but she has not heard any case on what substances are added in with tobacco, and substances that are not known or have had any research.

It was MOVED by Ms. Chock, seconded by Mrs. McBean-Clairborne, to amend the law and remove “or any combination thereof” from the definition of “Shisha” in Section 2.

Ms. Kelles disagrees with the amendment and said Shisha almost conclusively contains tobacco. The amendment also creates technical aspects of the sentence. She further commented that the statement is identical to State Law. If the County were to make a law that requires one regulation for those under 18 and a separate law for 19-20 year olds, it would make it difficult to implement and confusing.

Ms. Robertson asked what the amendment would change in terms of enforcement of the law.

Mr. Kruppa explained it would put added burdens on everyone including vendors; he strongly supports keeping the language the same as what is in the State law. He also addressed the cost of the program in response to Ms. Chock and said it is relatively a low-cost program. He believes the law will have a positive impact on smoking rates of children in Tompkins County.

A voice vote on the amendment resulted as follows: Ayes - 1 (Legislator Chock), Noes - 13. MOTION FAILED.

Ms. Kiefer suggested the word “minimum” be removed from the title in Section 3; this was accepted as friendly.

Ms. Kiefer further commented that in addition to protecting young people it will reduce the use of tobacco and the impacts of second-hand smoke.

Mr. Dennis said he came into this meeting with the intention of voting no; however, after further thought he said he would support the law. He spoke of his experience from smoking and ended up with squamous cell carcinoma caused from smoking. He understands 18 year-olds can make all kinds of other decisions that are not good for them. He said because of the cost there are very few 18-20 year olds buying cigarettes and are instead buying blunts which are used to smoke marijuana. He spoke of the education programs that were available in schools when he was a teacher and believes they could have some impact.

Mrs. McBean-Clairborne said there are portions of the law that are troubling to her but she said she will support it. She has the privilege of working and interacting with young people on a daily basis, and said they will figure out ways to do what they want to do. She asked what the educational plan will be to prevent people from getting into the black market for these items as this was an issue for people downstate. It is important to take a real holistic approach and consider the social factors and take time to help young people in a way that is not going to get them or others criminalized and having to face some sort of punishment.

Mr. Robertson also thanked Mr. Bentley and others who traveled to this meeting to speak. She agrees this law does not criminalize kids, it states it is illegal to sell the products to individuals under the age of 21. She commented that government changes laws at times and businesses need to change their business model when that happens. There are a number of public policy things that impinge on freedoms but they are still done. Research has shown that in the first days of starting smoking barriers can keep someone from starting.

Mr. Lane thanked Mr. Schiele and Mr. Kruppa of the Health Department for their work on this and said it was very important that this was brought forward. The State is taking a look at this because New York City and at least six other counties have passed similar laws. He agreed the age of 18 is a legal requirement but maturity is a different thing. He spoke of his work and setting up trusts and wills and always asks what age the trust should end and often a parent will say 25 because they know the maturity level cannot be assumed at age 18.

Ms. Kelles spoke of surveying students and the mixed responses from the different groups she received.

Following further discussion, Mr. Kruppa said as far as the Department it stands behind the version presented to the Legislature.

This resolution was adopted by a roll call vote.

MOVER:Anna Kelles, Member
SECONDER:David McKenna, Member
AYES:James Dennis, Rich John, Anna Kelles, Dooley Kiefer, Michael Lane, Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Martha Robertson, David McKenna, Glenn Morey
NAYS:Will Burbank, Carol Chock, Daniel Klein, Michael Sigler, Peter Stein