The New York City Council passed legislation on Wednesday that raises the minimum age for buying cigarettes and tobacco-related products from age 18 to 21. The council also passed a flurry of other anti-smoking measures meant to curb smoking rates, setting a minimum $10.50 price on standard packs of cigarettes and little cigars, banning discounts and deals on tobacco products, increasing fines for black market and illegal sales of tobacco to minors, and setting a standard definition for increasingly popular electronic cigarettes.
“This legislation will reduce smoking rates among New Yorkers — especially young New Yorkers — sparing them years of nicotine addiction and health problems,” wrote City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in a statement.
The legislation’s passage is a victory for Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), who has made curbing smoking rates a priority for his public health-conscious administration. Under Bloomberg, the city has imposed the highest tobacco taxes in the nation and banned smoking in public places — measures that have resulted in a dramatic downshift in New York City smoking rates.
Teen smoking rates in New York fell faster than the national average for most of the 2000s, plummeting to 8.5 percent in 2007. But progress has stagnated since then, prompting public health advocates to pursue more drastic measures.
“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,” said Bloomberg in a statement. “It’s critical that we stop young people from smoking before they ever start.”
The change would make New York City the biggest city to enact the nation’s highest smoking age. Vendors who might be tempted to circumvent the new law and continue selling to 18-year-olds could face hefty fines and have their tobacco licenses revoked.