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Onondaga County could raise tobacco age to 21

Tom Magnarelli
The Onondaga County Legislature Health Committee.

Next month, the Onondaga County Legislature could vote on raising the age to buy tobacco products from 19 to 21 years old. The new law would not include an exemption for veterans.

Legislator Monica Williams said her initial hesitation with raising the age, was not having the military exemption.

“Because I felt like if you were able to serve our country and go fight for us, then you should have the right to make the decision to smoke,"  Williams said. "However, I come from a background of health, and at the end of the day, I don’t want anyone smoking because it causes so many ills and can lead to an early death.”

Legislator Danny Liedka, the health committee chair, is also in favor of the proposal despite not having the exemption for veterans in Onondaga County under 21.

“After we had done our research, we found out the number is very minimal, it’s probably about 100 people, and they spend a majority of their time out of the area as it is," Liedka said. "But if we’re going to move this initiative forward to create a more healthy Onondaga County, I’m all for it. I’ve seen too many people lose their lives because of smoking. It's such a big killer. Anything we could do for education and prevention, I think changing the law is going to do just that. If somebody wants to smoke they will find a way. But if we can make it more difficult for their health benefit, that is the reason we're doing this."

The legislation would go into effect beginning next year. It would also restrict the sale of electronic cigarettes. Tompkins and Cortland counties have already raised the age to buy tobacco products to 21.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.