Tobacco-buying age in nyc to be raised to 21 with new legislation

NEW YORK (AP) Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed landmark legislation Tuesday banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21, making New York the first large city or state in the country to prohibit sales to young adults.

During a brief ceremony at City Hall, Bloomberg said raising the legal purchase age from 18 to 21 will help prevent young people from experimenting with tobacco at the age when they are most likely to become addicted. City health officials say 80 percent of smokers start before age 21.

The mayor, a former smoker, also signed legislation setting a minimum price for all cigarettes sold in the city $10.50 per pack. The same new law bans retailers from offering coupons, 2 for 1 specials, or other discounts.

In signing the bills, Bloomberg turned away criticism that the measures would be economically harmful to thousands of city convenience stores and possibly lead to job losses.

«This is an issue of whether we are going to kill people,» Bloomberg said. People who raise the economic argument, he said, «really ought to look in the mirror and be ashamed.»

The ban does have limitations. People under age 21 can still possess tobacco legally, they just can’t buy it. Underage smokers will still be able to steal cigarettes from their parents, bum them from friends, stock up during trips beyond city limits or buy them from the black market dealers common in many neighborhoods.

Young smokers puffing away outside the main library at New York University on Tuesday ridiculed the law as an infringement on personal freedoms and questioned whether it would really lead to reduced smoking rates.

«I think Bloomberg has just exponentially increased the fake ID industry in New York,» said Jakob Sacksofsky Bereck, age 19.

«It’s obviously going to make life more complicated, said fellow student Josh Kundert Gibbs, also 19. «We are going to have to buy in bulk.»

Both said, though, that they regretted ever having started smoking in the first place.

City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the idea is to make it more inconvenient for young people to start smoking regularly, especially young teens who now have easy access to cigarettes through slightly older peers.

«Right now, an 18 year old can buy for a 16 year old,» he said. Once the law takes effect, in 180 days, Farley said, that 16 year old would «have to find someone in college or out in the workforce.»

The city estimated that there are 27,000 New Yorkers ages 18 to 20 who smoke.

Tobacco companies and some retailers had opposed the age increase, saying it would simply drive people to the city’s thriving black market.

«What are you really accomplishing? It’s not like they are going to quit smoking. Why? Because there are so many other places they can buy cigarettes,» said Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores. «Every 18 year old who walks out of a convenience store is just going to go to the guy in the white van on the corner.»

Large cigarette companies now commonly offer merchants incentives to run price promotions to bring in new customers. Those discounts, though, will be banned by the new law, which aims to keep the price of cigarettes high as a way of deterring smokers. The city already has the nation’s highest cigarette taxes.

Calvin said the elimination of discounts would further feed the drift away from legal cigarettes, and toward illicit supplies brought into the city by dealers who buy them at greatly reduced prices in other states, where tobacco taxes are low.

Both bills were passed by the City Council late last month. The legislation also prohibits the sale of small cigars in packages of less than 20 and increases penalties for retailers that violate sales regulations.

New york city raises smoking age to 21 — cbs news

Updated 3 20 p.m. ET

NEW YORK Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed landmark legislation Tuesday banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21, making New York the first large city or state in the country to prohibit sales to young adults.

City health officials hope that raising the legal purchase age from 18 to 21 will lead to a big decline in smoking rates in a critical age group. A majority of smokers get addicted to cigarettes before age 21, and then have trouble quitting, even if they want to do so.

The ban has limitations, in terms of its ability to stop young people from picking up the deadly habit. Teenagers can still possess tobacco legally. Kids will still be able to steal cigarettes from their parents, bum them from friends or buy them from the black market dealers who are common in many neighborhoods.

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But City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the idea is to make it more inconvenient for young people to get started, especially young teens who had previously had easy access to cigarettes through slightly older peers.

«Right now, an 18 year old can buy for a 16 year old,» he said. Once the law takes effect, in 180 days, Farley said, that 16 year old would «have to find someone in college or out in the workforce.»

Tobacco companies and some retailers had opposed the age increase, saying it would simply drive teenagers to the city’s thriving black market.

«What are you really accomplishing? It’s not like they are going to quit smoking. Why? Because there are so many other places they can buy cigarettes,» said Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores. «Every 18 year old who walks out of a convenience store is just going to go to the guy in the white van on the corner.»

CBS New York reports if store owners violate the law by selling to people under 21, they would be fined up to $1,000 for each violation found in a single day and up to $2,000 for a second violation. Retailers could also lose their license to sell tobacco products.

Bloomberg, who was a former smoker, also signed legislation on Tuesday that will seek to keep the price of tobacco high by prohibiting coupons and other discounts and setting a minimum cigarette price of $10.50 per pack.

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Large cigarette companies now commonly offer merchants incentives to run price promotions to bring in new customers.

«For someone who might be trying to quit smoking, it makes it easy for them to buy on impulse,» Farley said.

Calvin said the elimination of discounts would further feed the drift away from legal cigarettes, and toward illicit supplies brought into the city by dealers who buy them at greatly reduced prices in other states, where tobacco taxes are low.

Bloomberg rejected criticism from some retailers that the measures would hurt the economy and lead to job losses.

«This is an issue of whether we are going to kill people,» Bloomberg said.

State Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal announced the plan to raise the minimum age in April.

Savino, a former smoker, lost both her parents and a grandparent to lung cancer.

«This is an illness, and an addiction that will last me for the rest of my life,» Savino said at a press conference at the time.

Both bills were passed by the City Council late last month. The legislation also prohibits the sale of small cigars in packages of less than 20 and increases penalties for retailers that violate sales regulations.