NYC may raise tobacco purchase age to 21

If City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has her way, drinking won’t be the only thing that becomes legal at 21.

Newly proposed Council legislation would raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products in the five boroughs from 18 to 21.

The change would make NYC the first major U.S. city to have a minimum smoking age above 19 years old.

“Too many adult smokers begin this deadly habit before age 21,” said Quinn, who announced the legislation today along with Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley and representatives from leading health advocacy organizations. “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.”

Although the city has cut the smoking rate over the last decade through measures such as banning smoking in bars and raising cigarette prices, the rate among youths has remained consistent at 8.5 percent since 2007, according to a statement from Quinn.

“Considering that 85 percent of U.S. smokers begin their deadly habit before they reach age 21, this legislation would help prevent more youth from succumbing to an addiction that could cost them their lives,” said Jeff Seyler, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast.