Albany Co. considers law that would raise age to buy tobacco related products

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Albany County Legislature is once again trying to curb smoking rates.

The legislature reintroduced a proposed law that would raise the age for buying all tobacco related products to 21. But for some people who recently kicked the habit after years of addiction, they said it takes more than changing the number to curb the amount of young smokers.

Antone Hills and Timothy Hodges have been smoke free for three months. They picked up their first cigarette underage and under peer pressure.

“Everyone else was doing it, so I did it,” Hills said.

“I started out smoking just to fit in, and it turned into a habit,” Hodges said.

It was a habit they couldn’t break until they found a program called Courage to Quit at the Capital City Rescue Mission in Albany. The program is part of New York’s smoke free campaign.

“It was hard,” Hodges said. “Actually, it was harder than quitting drugs and alcohol.”

That addictive quality has Albany County trying again. At a meeting Tuesday evening, legislators listened to people discuss the pros and cons on the proposed Local Law C that would raise the age to 21 for anyone who tries to buy tobacco related products.

Jim Calvin is the president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores. He said the three years between the ages of 18 and 21 won’t make a difference. He said teenagers will go somewhere else.

“They’re getting it from social sources,” he said. “They’re getting it from Uncle Charlie. They’re getting it from an older friend that lives down the block.”

A vote is expected at the May meeting.

For Hills and Hodges, finding the right support system, was the biggest deterrent from tobacco.

“You can raise the age, but they’re going to smoke,” Hills said. “But this place is a blessing for me and a whole lot of other people.”

The law must make it through the Health Committee before it hits the floor. If Albany County passes Local Law C, it will be the fourth county in New York to join New York City in raising the age to buy tobacco products.

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