Business

Merchants: Raising Minimum Age To Buy Cigarettes Would Devastate Business

Spokesman: Grocers 'Work Hard Selling Legal Products'
Cigarette Display In NYC (Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images News)

Cigarette Display In NYC (Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images News)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Some merchants on Wednesday were protesting against the idea of raising the minimum age to buy cigarettes in New York City, saying it would severely damage their bottom line.

As 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported, cigarette sales make up a big chunk of their profits, and Chong Sik Lee of the Korean-American Grocers Association said proposed regulations will put more business owners under.

“They work hard selling legal products. New York City keeps adding new ones on top of these,” Lee said.

A bill before the City Council would raise the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21. Businesses that sell tobacco products to kids could lose their licenses.

“Raising the age to 21 will drive thousands of current 18- to 20-year-olds into the illegal market,” said Robert Bookman of the New York City Newsstand Operators Association.

But Mayor Michael Bloomberg and backers of the legislation in the City Council said they hope the law will discourage teens from picking up the habit.

The council bill would go after the sellers of cigarettes and tobacco products. If they violate the sale-to-minors law they are expected to be fined:

* Up to $1,000 for each violation found in a single day.

* Up to $2,000 for the second violation.

* And they could also lose their license to sell tobacco products, period.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the proposal does not call for going after underage smokers themselves, saying, “I think that would be a bridge too far on this issue.”

New York State lawmakers are also considering legislation to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products.

The City Council is also considering legislation that would require New York City stores to keep cigarettes out of sight. Tobacco products would be required to be kept in cabinets, drawers, under the counter, behind a curtain or in any other concealed location.

The “hide the cigs” law would be the first of its kind in the U.S. A similar law has been in place in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec since 2008.

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