03/04/14 1:20pm
03/04/2014 1:20 PM
Entrance to the Eastern Campus of the Suffolk County Community College. (Credit: Gayle Sheridan)

Entrance to the Eastern Campus of the Suffolk County Community College. (Credit: Gayle Sheridan)

While the Suffolk County Legislature has been considering increasing the age for everyone throughout the county to purchase tobacco — from age 19 to 21 — another measure could ban smoking completely in a few areas around Suffolk: the community college campuses.

The proposal comes nearly two years after the State University of New York’s trustees voted to ban smoking on all state college campuses, a measure that is still waiting for state legislative approval in order to be enforced.

Because the fact that Suffolk County Community College isn’t regulated by the SUNY trustee board, college officials said that county approval of the measure would bring a smoke-free campus — actually, all three campuses — to the 26,000 students at the schools.

Ben Zwirn, director of legislative affairs at SCCC, said last week that SCCC would be the biggest college campus in the state to ban smoking entirely on its grounds should the measure pass.

Mr. Zwirn cited secondhand smoke as a health issue to those not smoking on campus, in addition to litter. He added that in an online survey of the student body, over 70 percent of respondents — over 2,800 people — were in favor of the regulation.

The move to ban smoking on campus comes on the heels of Legislator William Spencer’s effort to raise the age to buy tobacco products entirely throughout Suffolk. That proposal was subject to a public hearing last month, and will be debated again on Tuesday afternoon at the legislature’s general meeting.

He is expected to sponsor the legislation on Tuesday banning smoking on campus. After that, the measure would need committee approval, be subject to a public hearing, require approval from the entire legislative body, and need a signature from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

Dr. Spencer (D-Centerport) said last week that “We’re looking to create a healthy, smoke-free environment within the the college’s jurisdiction. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to try that.”

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03/03/14 10:00am
03/03/2014 10:00 AM

Cigarettes After a contentious public hearing in the middle of last month on raising the age to purchase tobacco from 19 to 21, the Suffolk County Legislature will hold a second hearing on Tuesday afternoon at its general meeting in Riverside.

Legislator William Spencer (D-Centerport), a doctor himself, sponsored the measure, which saw plenty of support and opposition at the two-and-a-half hour long Feb. 11 public hearing.

Some opponents had argued that their civil liberties were being encroached upon with the raise, while business owners cited a predicted loss in sales revenue and Legislator Tom Barraga said that if health advocates were that afraid of the consequences of smoking, an outright ban on sales should be what legislators are after.

On Friday, Dr. Spencer said he respects the public’s right to purchase tobacco too much to ban sales outright — though he said developmentally, people under age 21 are still too susceptible to addiction. “I don’t think we have the right to tell an adult what to do,” he said.

“But I choose to define an adult based on the development of the brain, as opposed to to whether they can serve, they can vote, drink or work … As a public official, I think we should be making decisions based on medical evidence.”

Dr. Spencer said that 18-year-olds are three times less likely to smoke if they don’t smoke by then. He said for that 21-year-olds, the likelihood would be 10 times less.

In 2004, Suffolk passed legislation to raise the legal age to 19. It was one of the first municipalities in the country to do so. Violators could face a fine between $300 and $1,000 for a first time offense, and between $500 to $1,500 for subsequent offenses, according to the resolution.

If approved, the countywide law would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

The public hearing is scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. at the County Center in Riverside

Scroll down to view the draft law.

Suffolk County proposed law to raise the legal age to 21 for tobacco purchases.