New York City has upped the legal age for purchasing tobacco products (including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and cigarillos) from 18 to 21 years of age.
The bill was adopted by the New York City Council, which passed the legislation by a vote of 35 to 10, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he plans to sign the bill. Once signed, the new age restriction will take effect within six months, the New York Times reported.
In addition to increasing the smoking age, the Council also approved other antismoking measures, including increased penalties for retailers who avoid paying tobacco taxes, a prohibition on discounts for tobacco products, and a minimum price of $10.50 a pack for cigarettes and little cigars. In one slight victory for retailers, the administration did drop a proposal that would have forced retailers to keep cigarettes out of sight.
James Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, noted that thousands of retail jobs could be lost because the law would reduce traffic—not just for tobacco, but also on incidental purchases like coffee or lottery tickets. He predicted that the law would do little to curb smoking, as it does not outlaw the possession of cigarettes by under-age smokers, only their purchase.
The law drew protests from many who asserted that New Yorkers younger than 21 can drive, vote and even fight in wars, and should be considered adult enough to decide whether or not they wish to smoke. The Bloomberg administration countered that increasing the age limit would prevent addiction in the first place.
Elsewhere in the country, the smoking age is usually 18, with the exception of some states that have upped it to 19. Needham, Mass., a suburb of Boston, raised the smoking age to 21 in 2005, the New York Times reported.