The New York City Council approved legislation to raise the minimum age to purchase cigarettes from 18 to 21. By a vote of 35 to 10, the new law could got into effect as soon as six months from now.
Federal law mandates a minimum age of 18, but localities and states are free to set their own minimum age. Alabama, Alaska, and Utah have a cigarette purchase age of 19, the only three states in the country that exceed the federal standard.
According to a statement from the City Council, the move was designed to make sure to head off nicotine addiction in people under 21, the time when most lifelong smokers begin.
“This legislation will reduce smoking rates among New Yorkers — especially young New Yorkers — sparing them years of nicotine addiction and health problems,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in the statement.
The proposal to raise the cigarette purchase age was submitted to the council in April by Quinn and Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley. At the time, the move more closely aligned Quinn with Mayor Bloomberg ahead of the Democratic primary, an association that was partly to blame for the implosion of her bid for mayor.