You can't legally buy a drink in New York until you're 21 and now City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is pushing to raise the age limit for purchasing tobacco, too. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said Monday that raising the minimum age to buy any tobacco product from age 18 to 21 targets the problem where it begins.
"Part of our job is to do what we can to protect the health and well being of children, and I think that's what we're doing," Quinn said.
The City Health Department says 80 percent of adult smokers in the city started when they were under 21. With teen smoking rates remaining stagnant since 2007, Quinn --who's running for mayor -- says she hopes the new legislation will jolt those numbers back into a downward trend.
"People who begin smoking at an early age are more likely to develop a severe addiction to nicotine than those who start at a later age," Quinn said. "Though we don't want you to start at all, let me be perfectly clear."
The bill has the blessing of Thomas Farley, the city's health commissioner, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"It will be much harder for youth under the age of 21 to buy cigarettes in stores and, even more important, it'll be more difficult for children under the age of 18 to get cigarettes from their older friends," Farley said.
The proposal comes a little more than a month after Bloomberg proposed a bill that would restrict the display of tobacco products in stores and prohibit retailers from accepting coupons for tobacco products.
"This is an example of where the problem being so large that we need both sides of City Hall working together to solve it."
Already there is resistance to the new legislation, especially from some young adults we spoke to, who say whether to smoke is a decision they can make on their own.
"That's still a personal choice that I feel I have to make and not be responsible to the government in that sense," Kings College student Dom Jergensen, 19, said.
"I think a 16-year-old or an 18-year-old is probably as well equipped to make that choice as a 21 year old," Brooklyn resident Ian Macgillivray said.
But others applauded the measure.
"The problem with smoking is the cost later, when you start falling sick, other people have to, you know, subsidize the health care for you," Manhattan resident John Wanyoike said. "So I don't think you should be smoking."
The new bill will be considered along with other smoking legislation during a City Council Health Committee hearing next week.