NY Could Raise Smoking Age to 21

By Sarah Beller 04/22/13

Mayor Bloomberg's crusade against smoking leads to a proposal to raise the legal purchasing age.

Teen smoking in NYC is on the decline.
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Young New Yorkers may soon have to wait until their 21st birthday to buy cigarettes. A new proposal advanced today by Dr. Thomas A. Farley, the city’s health commissioner, and Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, would raise the smoking age from 18 to 21, the age limit for alcohol. If implemented it would give New York the highest smoking age of any major US city. The smoking age is 18 in most of the country, and 19 in four states (Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah), though some counties have their own policies, like the Boston suburb of Needham, Mass., which has raised its smoking age to 21. The new proposal is the latest effort in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ongoing crackdown on smoking, which has included implementing smoking bans at parks, beaches, plazas and other public places, and a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars that celebrated its 10-year anniversary in March. Analysts say these efforts have been largely successful; new surveys suggest that youth smoking in New York City is declining. Still, Bloomberg's public health campaign has had some recent defeats, like the court overruling the policy of putting graphic antismoking advertisements where cigarettes are sold. But the mayor isn't about to give up: In March, he proposed first-of-its-kind legislation to make retailers keep tobacco products hidden from sight in stores, in order to shield kids from tobacco marketing and prevent impulse purchases.

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Sarah Beller is a writer and the Executive Director at Filter. She has written about drug policy with a focus on harm reduction for Substance.comThe Fix and Salon. She has worked as a social worker with formerly incarcerated people in New York for a number of years. Her writing has also appeared in McSweeney’sThe HairpinThe ToastReductressThe Rumpus and other publications. You can find Sarah on Linkedin and Twitter.