NYC Bans Tobacco Sales to Anyone Under Age 21
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."