City Council approves law to raise cigarette purchase age to 21

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Updated, Monday, November 4

They can drive, vote and join the Army, but 18 to 20-year-olds will soon lose the right to purchase cigarettes in the city.

The City Council voted October 30 to raise the minimum age for purchasing cigarettes and other tobacco products, as well as e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21. It passed by a 35-10 vote.

“…Our city is sending a powerful signal to the tobacco industry and its allies that hooking our kids on nicotine will no longer be a viable business model,” said Councilmember James Gennaro, one of the law’s sponsors.

It will now go to Mayor Michael Bloomberg to be signed into law. Bloomberg, who has spearheaded measures such as banning smoking in bars and restaurants, supports the age increase.

New York will then become the first major U.S. city to have a minimum smoking age of 21.

Although the city has cut the smoking rate over the last decade, the rate among youths has remained consistent at 8.5 percent since 2007, according to the City Council.

Eighty percent of the city’s adults who become daily smokers start smoking before reaching the age of 21, according to the City Council.

Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, argues that it will still be simple for younger smokers to obtain cigarettes from older friends or family members and black-market sources.

The same day, the City Council also passed legislation which attempts to limit access to illegal tobacco products and strengthens enforcement against illegal cigarette dealers.

“The City Council is hoping they will all quit smoking the next day. The reality is they won’t,” Calvin said, pointing out the law only changes purchase age not use.

While illegal sellers will benefit, he said, licensed retailers will not only lose sales from tobacco products, but also from products that those buyers tend to purchase at the same time, such as coffee or magazines.

A clerk at Hi Life, a pipe and tobacco shop on Union Turnpike, right outside of the St. John’s University campus, expected his establishment and others in the area to lose a lot of business from students.

“I believe it will bring a loss–around 10 to 15 percent of business. The other products will still sell,” said an employee at the Continental Smoke Shop in Forest Hills.

At Dutt News, also in Forest Hills, however, a clerk predicted little effect since most of its sales come from 22 to 25-year-olds.

-With additional reporting by Nikki Djokovich

 

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