If you’re under 21 and you’re a smoker, you might be dismayed to find out that you may soon be barred from purchasing tobacco in the Big Apple. The New York City Council voted Wednesday 35 to 10 to pass a bill that would raise the NYC cigarette age from 18 to 21.
“This will literally save many, many lives,” City Councilman James Gennaro, who sponsored the bill, said.
Federal law dictates that no one under the age of 18 is allowed to purchase cigarettes, but some states have raised the age to 19. New York City would be the biggest city to raise the smoking age to 21 if Mayor Bloomberg signs the bill, which he is expected to do, NBC New York reports. The law would restrict under-21’s from purchasing other tobacco products, including cigars, and electronic-vapor cigarettes as well.
New York officials claim that 80 percent of the city’s smokers started under the age of 21, and that raising the age rule could prevent many young people from starting the habit. “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,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement.
Bloomberg’s tough anti-smoking stance has led to banned smoking in the majority of NYC public parks and an attempt to force store owners to keep cigarettes out of sight unless a customer asks for them, though the latter proposal wasn’t ultimately passed.
Opponents of the bill argue that if people can fight in wars as well as vote at 18, then they should be considered mature enough to make their own health decisions about tobacco. E-cigarette companies aren’t pleased about the bill either, as it restricts many of their products which they claim are healthier than tobacco. “Is 21 the right number?” Ray Story, founder of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, told USA Today. “People can join the Army at 18.”
16-year-old Nicole Spencer told the New York Times that she didn’t think the law would work, as young people find ways to easily obtain cigarettes in the city. “I buy them off people or I bum them off people,” she said.