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New Jersey Lawmakers Eye Raising Cigarette-Buying Age To 21

The Limit Is Already That High In Two Massachusetts Communities
Cigarette Smoking (file/credit: Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

Cigarette Smoking (file/credit: Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

CBS New York (con't)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – New York City’s push to raise the tobacco purchase age has now spread across the Hudson River.

Sen. Richard Codey and Assemblyman Ruben Ramos plan to introduce a bill Monday in Trenton to raise New Jersey’s minimum age for buying cigarettes from 19 to 21.

“I think we have to send a message to our young adults: to smoke is no joke,” Codey said. “Effects of smoking at a young age is you’re going to die sooner, your children will have you less years.”

Codey made the announcement Thursday at City Hall in Manhattan.

While the threshold already has been raised to 21 in two Boston suburbs, the idea has gained more attention since City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and colleagues proposed it in New York City last month. Some state lawmakers have since proposed doing likewise throughout New York.

“This has now truly become a regional, if not national, effort,” said Quinn, who noted that a Chicago alderman also has expressed interest in the idea since it was broached in New York City. It had been proposed in the Texas Legislature earlier this year.

Quinn has the guaranteed support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but the question is does Cody have the support of Gov. Chris Christie, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported.

“I would never predict would Gov. Christie would think, not in a million years,” Codey said. “Hopefully, by Jan. 1 this will be law in the State of New Jersey.”

Under federal law, no one under 18 can buy tobacco anywhere in the country.

Advocates say higher age limits help stop, or at least delay, young people from developing a habit that remains the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S., despite decades of efforts to call attention to its dangers. The measures make it tougher for 18-to-20-year-olds to obtain cigarettes for themselves and for younger friends, supporters say.

Representatives for two major tobacco companies — Altria Group Inc., which produces the top-selling Marlboro brand, and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., maker of brands including Camel — didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Higher age limits have faced criticism from smokers’ rights advocates who feel the restrictions are unfair and patronizing to an age group considered old enough to make such adult decisions as voting and serving in the military. Some retailers have suggested younger smokers may just turn to black-market merchants or to nearby areas with lower age limits.

The New York and New Jersey advocates say that’s a good reason to set the limit at 21 region-wide.

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