NYC Lawmakers Votes to Raise Cigarette Purchase Age to 21

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013  |  Updated 6:52 PM EDT
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The City Council has passed a bill to bar anyone under the age of 21 from buying cigarettes and e-cigarettes in New York City. 

Under federal law, no one under 18 can buy tobacco anywhere in the country, but some states and localities have raised it to 19.

Some communities, including Needham, Mass., have raised the minimum age to 21, but New York will be the biggest city to do so if Mayor Bloomberg signs the bill, which he is expected to do.

Lawmakers voted 35 to 10 to pass the bill Thursday.

Public health advocates say a higher minimum age discourages, or at least delays, young people from starting smoking and thereby limits their health risks. But opponents of such measures have said 18-year-olds, legally considered adults, should be able to make their own decisions about whether or not to smoke.

Officials say 80 percent of city smokers started before age 21, and an estimated 20,000 New York City public high school students now smoke. While it's already illegal for many of them to buy cigarettes, officials say this measure plays a key role by making it illegal for them to turn to slightly older friends to buy smokes for them. The vast majority of people who get asked to do that favor are between 18 and 21 themselves, city officials say.

 

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