New York’s City Council recently voted to approve a law that will raise the legal tobacco-purchasing age from 18 to 21, a controversial move that continues a long and storied battle between NYC’s government and the tobacco industry. The city that never sleeps became the city where you can’t smoke indoors over 10 years ago, and those who have tried to buy cigarettes here know that the increased tax on tobacco products has turned buying a single pack into a major investment. While it may not sit well with tobacco execs, the decision was made in hopes of deterring teens from lighting up for the first time.
The bill, known as “Tobacco 21,” makes it illegal for a person under the age of 21 to purchase or use any type of tobacco product, including, somewhat controversially, electronic cigarettes. E-cigs emit vapor, not smoke, although they do still contain nicotine, and according to some studies, other carcinogens.
Mayor Bloomberg, who has been on a crusade to make NYC a healthier place (whether New Yorkers like it or not) now has 30 days to sign the bill into law. It’s expected that he will, and in doing so, will make New York the largest city in America to raise the smoking age to 21. Needham, Massachusetts, raised the sale age to 21 in 2005, according to the New York City Department of Health, and several neighboring states and counties have raised the tobacco sale age to 19.
According to CNN.com, the NYC City Council also approved a second bill, the “Sensible Tobacco Enforcement.” This bill will prohibit discounts on tobacco products and increase enforcement on vendors who attempt to evade taxes.
The City Council hopes that by making it more difficult for young adults to access tobacco products, they will prevent some from ever picking up the habit in the first place.
“By increasing the smoking age to 21, we will help prevent another generation from the ill health and shorter life expectancy that comes with smoking,” Bloomberg said in a statement on Wednesday.