NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – One week after New York City officials proposed raising the age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21, state lawmakers have taken up the cause.
On Sunday, State Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal announced state legislation to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products.
City Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn said she is impressed with the swift action.
“When we introduced our bill last Monday and began talking about it, I knew New York was a leader in public health and I knew that what we do gets watched by the state and the nation. But I no idea that in less than a week’s time we would already see legislation introduced in Albany,” Quinn told WCBS 880.
Last week, the New York City Health Commissioner introduced the legislation, which was due to come up for a hearing in the city council on Thursday.
“Our effort to raise the age to buy tobacco in New York City to 21 has spurred the state legislature to take the same steps. And Sen. Savino and Assembly member Rosenthal have introduced legislation to make the age to purchase tobacco in the entire state 21 years of age,” said Quinn.
It was expected that Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has initiated a number of anti-smoking efforts in his tenure, would have swiftly signed he measure into law if it were to pass the city council
“We know that 80 percent of life-long smokers start smoking before they are 20 years of age. We also know that most young people who get cigarettes get them from friends, relatives, cousins, etc. who are 18, 19 years of age. We can affect both of those things by raising this age and make sure we cut off a lifelong addiction,” Quinn told WCBS 880.
Bloomberg has given $600 million of his own money to anti-smoking efforts around the world.
Last month, the Bloomberg administration unveiled a proposal to keep cigarettes out of sight in stores until an adult customer asks for a pack, as well another bill that would decrease access to cheap and illegal cigarettes.
Over his years in office, the city at times with the council’s involvement, helped impose the highest cigarette taxes in the country, barred smoking at parks and on beaches and conducted sometimes graphic advertising campaigns about the hazards of smoking.
Bloomberg’s administration and public health advocates praise the initiatives as bold moves to help people live better. Adult smoking rates in the city have fallen from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 14.8 percent in 2011, according to city health officials.
Bloomberg also has pushed a number of other pioneering public-health measures, such as compelling chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus, banning artificial trans fats in restaurants, and attempting to limit the size of sugary drinks. A court struck down the big-beverage rule last month, but the city is appealing and Bloomberg has urged voluntary compliance in the meantime.
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