State Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal announced the legislation at a news conference Sunday in New York City. The bill was introduced on Friday.
If passed, New York would become the first state to raise the minimum age to buy cigarettes to 21. Four states and some communities have increased the age to 19, and at least two towns have agreed to raise it to 21.
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Anthony Billoni, Erie County Tobacco Free Coalition
Public health and anti-smoking advocates say a higher minimum age for buying tobacco discourages, or at least delays, young people from starting smoking and thereby limits their health risks.
Here's a sample of some comments against the idea:
- "Ridiculous! lets see you can sign a contract at 18 , you can be charged as an adult, you can have your life on the line in the military but you can't buy cigarettes"
-"It doesnt matter the age for alcohol or tobacco. I got into bars at 15 and bought smokes at 15. "
-" Smoked for over 20 years, & you know who's fault that was? MINE. I just quit 5 months ago... I didn't quit with any government run agency or governmental medication (patch). Nor do I want to sue anyone for getting me addicted when I was 15. "
Sen. Savino adds "anything we can do to stop young people from starting is a step in the right direction."
A hearing on the New York City's proposal to raise the minimum age to 21 is scheduled for May 2
As New York City considered the change, a retailers' representative suggested the measure would simply drive younger smokers to neighboring communities or corner-store cigarette sellers instead of city stores, while a smokers' rights advocate called it "government paternalism at its worst."
Under federal law, no one under 18 can buy tobacco anywhere in the country. Four states and some localities have raised the age to 19, and at least two communities have agreed to raise it to 21. New York City would be the nation's largest community to raise it to 21, and if it is s approved statewide New York would be the only state in the nation to raise the legal age that high.
A similar proposal has been floated in the Texas Legislature, but it's on hold after a budget board estimated it would cost the state more than $42 million in cigarette tax revenue over two years.
Smoking has become less prevalent overall in New York City over the last decade but has plateaued at 8.5 percent among the city's public high school students since 2007. An estimated 20,000 of them smoke today.