NYC Aims To Increase Cigarette-Buying Age to 21

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 22 2013 11:41 AM

NYC's Latest Health Push: A Higher Cigarette-Buying Age

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New York City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

The latest volley in Mayor Bloomberg's war on unhealthy things he doesn't like is coming from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the current frontrunner in the race to be the city's next mayor: a new proposal to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21.

Quinn, along with city health commissioner Thomas A. Farley, made the announcement this morning. That's just a little over a month after Bloomberg proposed legislation which would make NYC the first city in the nation to require businesses to keep cigarettes for sale out of public view. A companion bill would push the minimum price for a pack of cigarettes to $10.50.

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Quinn's proposal is based on research indicating that a higher minimum age would at least delay young people from starting smoking, possibly discouraging the habit to start at all, as NBC New York explained. That's reflected in Quinn's spin on the proposal. The city council speaker tweeted the announcement Monday, arguing for the new age restriction in a series of tweets:

"By delaying our city's young adults access to lethal tobacco products we're decreasing the likelihood they ever start smoking...By raising smoking age limit to 21, no HS student will be able to purchase cigs & hand them to younger classmates...Despite NYC's success in reducing tobacco use youth smoking rate flattened at 8.5% since 2007; NYC will be first major city to change that."

It's been 10 years since the city banned cigarettes in restaurants and bars. Two years ago, smoking was barred in parks, plazas, and beaches. In a recent Quinnipiac poll, 68 percent of New Yorkers indicated that they supported the Mayor's initiative to keep cigarettes hidden from view in stores.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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