New York City wants to ban cigarette sales to people under 21

Mon Apr 22, 2013 4:32pm EDT
 
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By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City took the first step on Monday in outlawing sales of cigarettes to anyone under age 21, in an effort to reduce smoking among the age group in which most smokers take up the habit.

The bill, which was introduced by the City Council and has the backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, would make New York City, which already has the highest cigarette taxes in the nation, the first big city or state to set the smoking age at 21. Currently, individuals must be 18 to buy cigarettes.

Eight in 10 adult smokers in the city started smoking regularly when they were below the age of 21, and most smokers who are under age 18 obtain cigarettes from individuals who are just a few years older than them, city officials said.

While an increase in cigarette taxes contributed to a 15-point drop among youth smokers from 1999 to 2007, the number of high-school-aged smokers has held steady at about 8.5 percent over the last six years.

Cigarette packs sold in New York City currently carry a state tax of $4.35 and a city tax of $1.50 - making it the most expensive city in the nation to be a smoker.

"Too many adult smokers begin this deadly habit before age 21," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. "By delaying our city's children and young adults access to lethal tobacco products, we're decreasing the likelihood they ever start smoking, and thus, creating a healthier city."

The bill marks the latest effort in the city's decade-long fight to discourage smoking, which the city's health commissioner, Thomas Farley, said was the most significant cause of preventable death in the city. In 2003, Bloomberg outlawed smoking in bars and restaurants, and smoking has since been banned in other public places, including parks.

Quinn, who is running to become the city's next mayor, made clear that she would continue Bloomberg's aggressive public health agenda - which has led his detractors to dub him the "nanny mayor."   Continued...

 
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn speaks during a news conference to announce the legislation to increase the minimum age for buying cigarettes to 21 at City Hall in New York April 22, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid