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NYC Wants to Raise Smoking Age to 21
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In New York City’s latest effort to enact controversial health focused legislation, a new proposal in the city’s Council would make it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase cigarettes.

The legislation was announced by New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn earlier today and would raise the age limit for buying tobacco products in New York City to 21, which reflects the age at which adults can purchase and consume liquor. Associated Press reports that this legislation is supported by New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley and several other members of City Council, including James Gennaro, whose mother died of lung cancer after smoking for several years.


“With this legislation, we’ll be targeting the age group at which the overwhelming majority of smokers start,” said Quinn.

The current New York City administration, headed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, has created several laws that seek to improve the health of New York residents, but critics argue that these laws are too restrictive, and place too many limits on what adults can legally do. Some of these past initiatives have included banning smoking in restaurants and bars, and later parks and beaches, putting calorie counts on the menus of chain restaurants, and most recently, the controversial ban on large soft drinks, which was struck down by a court. Another anti-smoking initiative, which would require the placement of graphic images depicting the health costs of smoking at all stores selling cigarettes, was also struck down by the courts. New York City currently has some of the highest cigarette taxes in the United States.

The latest legislation, if passed, is unlikely to be challenged in court. The current age limit for tobacco purchase is a federal restriction, but individual localities and states can raise the age limit as they see fit. Needham, Massachusetts has raised the age limit from 18 to 21, while the state of Texas attempted a similar increase in the age limit which proved to be unsuccessful.

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By raising the age limit, Quinn and other New York City officials hope to stop older teens from starting a smoking habit, or at least delaying the start of the habit. Quinn’s data suggests that 80% of New York City smokers started before they were 21 years-old. The raised age limit also seeks to prevent high school students from turning to their slightly older friends for cigarette purchases.



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