NYC bill would raise smoking age to 21

New York City could become the first major city in America to put restrictions on smoking in line with drinking laws by raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products.

City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and top health officials touted a bill on Monday that would increase the smoking age from 18 to 21 as a way to prevent younger generations in the five boroughs from taking up the habit.

“Too many adults smokers begin this deadly habit before age 21,” Ms. Quinn said in a news release. “By delaying our city’s children and young adults access to lethal tobacco products, we’re decreasing the likelihood they ever start smoking, and thus, creating a healthier city.”

Officials cited estimates that said that raising the smoking age to 21 would cut the smoking rate among 18- to 20-year-olds by more than half and reduce the rate among 14- to 17-year-olds by two-thirds.

While the smoking age is commonly 18, some places have raised it to 19, and a pair of towns in Massachusetts raised the age to 21 in 2005 and earlier this month, respectively, according to the NYC officials.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a billionaire, has devoted $600 million to anti-smoking initiatives around the world and made the issue a priority shortly after he became mayor in 2002, according to the Associated Press.

The proposal is sure to stir debate in the nation’s largest city. Mr. Bloomberg’s proposed ban on large surgery drinks is already in court, and stop-and-frisk measures to reduce crime have prompted critics to say he’s gone too far in trying to control the city’s denizens.

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