The New York City council voted on Wednesday to change the tobacco-buying age to 21-years-old. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg now has 30 days to sign the new law. Bloomberg is expected to sign the bill as he is a big supporter of strict smoking laws.
The same bill also sets a minimum price of $10.50 per pack on tobacco cigarette, while also stepping up the enforcement of fines and other penalties for violating tobacco sales rules.
After agreeing on the bill City Councilman James Gennaro said, “This will literally save many, many lives. I’ve lived with it, I’ve seen it… but I feel good today.” Gennaro lost his mother and father to cigarette related illness.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg will likely sign the bill soon as it will not go into effect until 180 days after enactment.
In a public statement Michael Bloomberg said, “We know that tobacco dependence can begin very soon after a young person first tries smoking so it’s critical that we stop young people from smoking before they ever start.”
The vote marks the largest city in the country to bar cigarette sales to 19 and 20-year-olds. The state of New Jersey is considering a similar bill and Hawaii will vote in December to raise the tobacco-buying age to 21.
The tobacco-buying age is already set to 21 in Needham, Mass. with the same law going into effect on January 1 in Canton, Mass.
City officials in New York pushed for the increase in tobacco-buying age after a study showed that youth smoking increased to 8.5 percent since 2007.
“We have to do more and that’s what we’re doing today,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “We have a real chance of leading the country and the world.”
New York City like many areas around the country has already taken a hard stance on smoking in public. It is already illegal to light up in city parks and at beaches.
In response to increasing age restrictions cigarette manufacturers have claimed that young people will just turn to black-market merchants. Critics claim that people old enough to serve in the military and vote should be considered old enough to make up their own minds about cigarette smoking.
Protests against the tobacco-buying age increase have been run by bodegas and tobacco store owners who are largely funded by the very same tobacco companies they support.
Michael Bloomberg watched as another law failed to pass in March. Bloomberg attempted to require shops to keep tobacco products in cabinets, drawers, under the counter, behind a curtain or in other concealed spots until a customer asked for them. Tobacco companies won that fight, claiming it violated their free speech rights to communicate with consumers.
The New York City health department said they removed Bloomberg’s March proposal until they could figure out how to deal with the arrival of e-cigarettes.
Do you think the tobacco-buy age should be increased to 21 nationwide?