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New York City Raising Tobacco Buying Age to 21

Update Date: Oct 31, 2013 09:41 AM EDT
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For many American citizens, the 21st birthday is a very significant one. At this stage in life, young adults gain more responsibility along with their legal right to purchase alcohol. For decades, turning 21 held so much significance and now, in New York, it will hold ever more importance for smokers. This past Wednesday, New York City lawmakers adopted some of the strictest laws on tobacco purchases within this country. Now, young adults will have to wait until they are 21-years-old in order to purchase tobacco.

The new bill was adopted by the New York City Council and was passed with a 35 to 10 vote. It states that all cigarettes, cigars and cigarillos can only be purchased within the city by adults aged 21 or older. The city's mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg has stated that he would sign the bill into law. Bloomberg has 30 days to sign the bill into law and if he decides to do so, the law will be put into effect 180 days after the signing.

"This is literally legislation that will save lives," stated Christine C. Quinn, the Council speaker.

Bloomberg added according to the Associated Press reported by ABC News, "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."

The city officials who pushed hard for the bill cited many statistics regarding the dangers of smoking. They stated that studies have found that smoking at an earlier point in life will increases one's chances of becoming addicted. Furthermore, the officials reported that the youth smoking rate within New York City has declined from 17.6 percent in 2001 to 8.5 percent in 2007. Despite the fact that smoking is detrimental to one's health, some people are not happy that the government is once again taking control over people's choices. These critics state that if people can vote, fight in war and drive, they should be able to choose if they want to buy tobacco. Other critics believe that if people want to smoke, they will continue to regardless of the buying age.

"New York City already has the highest cigarette tax rate and the highest cigarette smuggling rate in the country," said Bryan D. Hatchell , a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. "Those go hand in hand and this new law will only make the problem worse."

Aside from raising the buying age, the City Council also adopted other antismoking measures. The bill will increase the penalties for retailers who avoid paying tobacco taxes, forbid any sale discounts on tobacco products and set the minimum price for a pack of cigarettes and little cigars at $10.50.

This new law will represent the long hard years that Mayor Bloomberg has worked to make New York City a healthier place to live. Bloomberg was in charge of banning smoking in most public places as well as head starting several campaigns that promote better lifestyle choices, ranging from diet to drugs.

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