April 14, 2017

Letter to the Editor: On proposed T21 tobacco law

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To the Editor:

I represent the Fourth District on the Tompkins County Legislature, which covers a good part of the Commons, East Hill, Collegetown and the Cornell West Campus.  I am writing to make Cornell students who may live in the District aware of a public hearing (Tuesday, April 18, 5:30 p.m. at the Tompkins County Legislature Chambers) on a Local Law known as “T21” to raise the age to purchase tobacco and tobacco products from 18 to 21.

I do not smoke and see no upside to smoking.  The marketing of tobacco intentionally focuses on teens, as that is the age where lifetime addiction is most likely to take hold.  An important goal of T21 is to make it a bit harder to get that first cigarette.  Helping people to avoid smoking is a worthy goal.

However, I would appreciate getting input prior to voting on this proposal.  I represent a District with a significant percentage of 18 to 21 year olds that will be impacted by this local law.  The proposed law would take away a right, even though it is a harmful activity.  The transition from teenager to adult involves making many important life decisions, some with negative consequences. This local law is a great example of how hard it is to draw the line between freedom and paternalism, to determine when government should act to protect people.

If you have an opinion on this proposal, pro or con, you are free to attend the Public Hearing and petition your government.  If you wish, you can reach me at [email protected] and I will share your message with my colleagues on the Legislature.  Thanks.

Rich John
Fourth District
Tompkins County Legislature