In a little more than six months, New York City will officially be the toughest major municipality for a college-aged smoker to light up. Yesterday afternoon, the New York City Council voted to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21.
The bill, which affects all forms of tobacco, including cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos and even e-cigarettes, passed a 35-10 vote at yesterday's City Council meeting. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that he would sign the bill if it passed such a vote. Bloomberg has 30 days to sign the legislation, and then the law will take effect 180 days after.
Interestingly, the bill does not make it illegal for persons under the age of 21 to smoke or possess tobacco; the new law only affects the legal age to purchase tobacco in the city.
In most of America, the legal age to buy tobacco is 18 years old, with a few exceptions. Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey, Utah and Washington D.C. (as well as Onondaga, Nassau and Suffolk Counties in New York) have all raised the legal age to buy tobacco to 19, while a few cities in Massachusetts have raised the purchase age to 21. Earlier this year, Chicago lawmakers also began talks to raise the purchase age for tobacco products to 21.
The age limit law was part of a broader package of antismoking legislation brought before the City Council. In addition to raising the age to buy tobacco, the City Council also approved language that increases the maximum fine for retailers who evade tobacco taxes, prohibits retailers from accepting coupons or selling tobacco at a discounted price, and raises the minimum price of a pack of cigarettes and little cigars to $10.50 a pack.