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Legal age to purchase tobacco in Orange County to go from 18 to 21

Beginning the middle of the new year, you will have to be at least 21 years of age in order to purchase any tobacco products in Orange County. The county legislature on Thursday voted unanimously to raise the legal age, citing health risks associated with the habit of smoking or other tobacco uses.

The bill is sponsored by James DiSalvo. “If we can save a few lives with this legislation, then it is worth it,” DiSalvo said

Legislator Michael Anagnostakis, chairman of the Health and Mental Health Committee, said the Centers for Disease Control has data about raising the purchase age.

“They did the study and said if this kind of a law was implemented across the whole United States of America, you would 225,000 less deaths every single year going forward and it would account for savings of upwards of $10 billion in the healthcare system,” Anagnostakis said.

Legislator Matthew Turnbull termed smoking “a horrible addiction.”

Lawmaker Kevin Hines recounted a conversation with his son.

“I have a 21-year-old son who smokes and he told me, ‘make sure you pass this law.’ He knew that he got hooked on it and he’s fighting it.”

Legislator Melissa Bonacic sees teenage behavior on a regular basis.

“Being a high school teacher myself I see sometimes teenagers make a lot of great decisions but are also at the age where they make a lot of poor decisions as well,” Bonacic said. “And I think there are a lot of factors out there, whether it is in the media, on TV or in the movies, that promotes smoking because it is cool, we know today that smoking is not cool.”

Legislator Chris Eachus said the next step in the process to keep tobacco out of the hands of children is to establish local laws to move tobacco advertising out of the line of sight of young people.

County Executive Steven Neuhaus supports the measure and is expected to sign it.

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