New York City Council votes to raise tobacco purchasing age to 21

NEW YORK,  (Reuters) – The New York City Council voted to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco to 21, the highest in the country, in hopes of reducing smoking among the city’s young adults.

The council voted 35 to 10 yesterday to raise the age requirement from 18.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an anti-smoking crusader, was expected to sign the bill, which would become law 180 days later.

Some 19,000 high school students under 18 currently smoke in the city and 80 percent of smokers start before age 21, according to the city’s health department. Youth smoking rates have hovered around 8.5 percent since 2007 after having been cut in half from 2001 to 2006.

“We need the next big thing. And this is the next big thing,” City Councilman James Gennaro, the sponsor of the bill, told reporters about the bill’s intent to further reduce smoking among the city’s youth.

Raising the minimum sales age to 21 would reduce smoking among 14 to 17 year olds by two-thirds and cut rates by a little over half for 18 to 20 year olds, the health department said.

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