New York City Raises Legal Smoking Age To 21

Michael Harper for – Your Universe Online

The New York City Council has raised the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. Adults must now be of legal drinking age before they can buy cigarettes, electronic cigarettes or any tobacco products. New York City is the largest city to increase the smoking age from 18 to 21. In an additional measure, the city also increased the minimum cost of a pack of cigarettes to $10.50 and banned the discounting of tobacco products.

This is the latest of several attempts by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to put tight restrictions on smoking in the city. Previously he has worked to kick cigarettes out of bars and restaurants and even raise tobacco taxes on packs of cigarettes and other smokeables sold in the city. In an interesting twist, Bloomberg’s measure did not cover the sale of bongs or pipes used to smoke marijuana.

“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“It’s critical that we stop young people from smoking before they ever start.”

Bloomberg now has 30 days to sign the bill into law. After which, the law will go into effect after 180 days.

Though Bloomberg’s office praises the prior attempts to squash smoking in the city, many people – smokers and non-smokers alike – view these efforts as yet another step taken towards a Nanny State. Bloomberg’s previous attempt to ban large soda containers was quite controversial and even brought non-New Yorkers into the fray to oppose the measure.

According to City Hall, the number of smokers in New York fell from 21.5 percent to 14.8 percent between 2002 and 2011. Bloomberg’s office is expecting similar results from this measure, saying they expect the number of 18-20 year-old smokers to drop by more than half. Their previous measures have already worked to reduce the number of high school smokers by 8.5 percent between 2001 and 2011.

Those who disagree with the new measure – most notably cigarette manufacturers – say it will only drive young adults to find their smokes on the black market and create even more problems for the city.

“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 in a statement to ABC News. “Those go hand in hand and this new law will only make the problem worse.”

As noted by the New York Post, there’s some discrepancy in the legal tobacco smoking age and at what age young adults can buy marijuana paraphernalia. Though it’s illegal to sell pipes, water bongs and other smoking accessories that can be used with marijuana, shops are able to sell these goods if they claim they’re for tobacco use only. This means an 18 year-old New Yorker is now able to legally buy a pipe to smoke marijuana but cannot buy a cigar.

Bloomberg’s proposed ban on sugary sodas was also met with some criticism and was ultimately struck down by New York’s Supreme Court. Justice Milton Tingling said the measure was “fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences.”