New York City Council on Wednesday voted 35 to 10 to become the largest city in the U.S. to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21. This move by the Bloomberg administration is seen as the latest in public health initiatives being implemented in the city; which had earlier raised the legal drinking age to 21.
The move was first announced in April by the City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and New York's Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.
"The more difficult it is for [young people] to gain access to tobacco products, the less likely they are to start smoking" Ms Quinn was quoted as saying.
The bill was originally proposed by Councilman James Gennaro.
"This, I believe, is the next big thing for the city, and hopefully for the state and for the country," said Mr Gennaro before the vote on Wednesday.
CBS New York reports that the age bar is also applicable for electronic cigarettes. The channel cited recent report by the Center for Disease Control saying that an increasing number of high school students had taken up smokeless cigarettes.
NBC New York in its report quoted official statistics to say that 80 per cent of New York smokers started before age 21. The report say 20,000 city high school students, and many of them under 18-years-old presently smoke.
Those supporting the bill, believe that by raising the legal age for smoking from 81 to 21 they can stop minors from buying cigarettes for older friends. Reports quoting officials say, majority of those asked to buy cigarettes for minors are under the age of 21.
Critics, however, point out that despite raising the legal age for drinking, minors continue to have easy access to alcohol.
"It's not going to work," a minor told New York Daily News. "Cigarettes are like food, getting your hands on them is easy."
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