Lawmakers in New York City (NYC) voted to raise the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21, according to CBS News, October 30, 2013. The initiative, which also bans electronic-vapor smokes, was written in an effort to save lives, as described by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg:
“We know that tobacco dependence can begin very soon after a young person first tries smoking so it’s critical that we stop young people from smoking before they ever start.”
Although there are other cities in the United States that have banned youth smoking, such as Needham, Massachusetts, NYC is by far the largest American city to ban it in the United States. The initiative, which is supported by Bloomberg, will go into effect 180 days (6 months) after Bloomberg signs it into law. The city of Canton, Massachusetts is considering enacting a ban on youth smoking as well, as are the states of Hawaii and New Jersey. Supporters of such initiatives cite the fact that in cities that have enacted the ban, youth smoking has descended to 8.5%, which is considerably lower than it was before.
The Speaker of the NYC City Council, Christine Quinn, was hopeful that the youth smoking ban can set a precedent for the rest of the country:
“We have to do more and that’s what we’re doing today. We have a real chance of leading the country and the world.”
Currently NYC’s smoking age limit is age 18, and smoking is banned in city parks, beaches and restaurants under current law. Supporters of the initiative state that with the new law young people at least will be discouraged from starting smoking and that many lives will be saved.
Opponents to the initiative cited the ambiguity involved with allowing young people to enter the military and fight wars, but considering them too young to decide for themselves whether or not to smoke. Other sources cited the fact that NYC has the highest tobacco tax in the country. Bryan D. Hatchell, a spokesperson for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, expressed his concerns over the initiative:
“New York City already has the highest cigarette tax rate and the highest cigarette smuggling rate in the country. Those go hand in hand and this new law will only make the problem worse.”
However, NYC Councilman James Gennaro, the sponsor of the youth smoking ban initiative, emotionally expressed his strong sentiments in support of it:
“This will literally save many, many lives. I’ve lived with it, I’ve seen it … but I feel good today.”