Last Wednesday night, the New York City Council voted almost unanimously on the “Tobacco 21” bill, which raises the tobacco-purchasing age from 18 to 21; that goes for electronic cigarettes too. The council also approved a second bill called “Sensible Tobacco Enforcement” which will forbid discounts on tobacco products and steps up enforcements on vendors who attempt illegal tobacco sales.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is an advocate for anti-smoking laws, has 30 days to sign the bills. Once he does, the laws will take effect 180 days after they’re enacted, according to the council’s news release.
Bloomberg said in a statement that, “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.”
“This will literally save many, many lives,” said City Councilman James Gennaro, the bill’s sponsor, a man whose parents died from tobacco-related illnesses. “I’ve lived with it, I’ve seen it… but I feel good today.”
One New York City smoker agreed with the law, saying that smoking is a choice reserved for the mature: “I think you should be 21. I think when you’re 18, you just got out of high school. You don’ really know life yet.”
While bureaucrats and others praised the bills, some younger New Yorkers, tobacco spokesmen, and business owners weren’t having it.
“You’re an adult; you should be able to buy a pack of cigarettes,” one New Yorker told CNN affiliate NY1. “I mean, you can think for yourself.”
“I think it’s ridiculous,” another New Yorker said, “Let us be, let us live.”
“New York City already has the highest cigarette tax rate and the highest cigarette smuggling rate in the country,” said Bryan D. Hatchell, a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.
“Those go hand in hand and this new law will only make the problem worse.”
With funding backed by tobacco-manufactures, a coalition of small shop owners expressed their disdain for the “Sensible Tobacco Enforcement” bill, noting potential losses in revenue.
“I’m going to lose a lot of business,” deli owner Wadah Arbuya told CBS New York. “Maybe I’m going to get hurt big time. Half my sales of cigarettes is between 18 and 21.”
James Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, said that as a result of the bills, thousands of retail jobs would be lost because the laws would now just lower tobacco sales, but purchases of coffee or lottery tickets. Calvin predicted that the law would not reduce smoking as it does not outlaw under-age smokers to possess tobacco products.
(Image via WikiCommons)