New York City’s outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg has signed into law a ban on tobacco sales to anyone under 21, raising the age from 18.
It makes the Big Apple the first large city or state in the US to prohibit sales of cigarettes to young adults.
A former smoker himself, the mayor was unrepentant in the face of criticism.
“This century a billion people will die from smoking in the world and we don’t want any of the people that die to be New Yorkers. That’s the one thing we can do,” Bloomberg said.
New York City’s Health Commissioner Thomas Farley backed the move – saying that since more than 80 percent of the city’s smokers start before the age of 21, the ban may stop them from taking up the habit.
New York City residents have long been aware of the planned changes to the law.
“Twenty-one is probably a good age I mean you can’t drink anyway until you’re 21, technically. So, as long as they can enforce it . . . I don’t know how they will. It’s pretty hard. I’d think it’d be a great idea to move it along outside of New York as well,” said one young woman, a smoker.
“What I notice is that they’ll find somebody else older to pick them up for them and I notice a lot of stores still don’t check,” said a male non-smoker.
Tobacco companies and some retailers opposed the age increase, arguing it would just drive teenagers to the black market.
The new law sets a minimum price for all cigarettes sold in the city at 10.5 dollars – or 7.75 euros – a pack.
The legislation also prohibits the sale of small cigars in packages of less than 20 and increases penalties for retailers that violate sales regulations.
Both bills were passed by the City Council late last month, and will take effect in 180 days from the bills being signed.