City Council takes up age limit to purchase tobacco

City Council takes up age limit to purchase tobacco

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The New York City Council begin hearings today on raising the age limit to buy tobacco from 18 to 21.

According to NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, smoking kills more people than all illegal drugs combined.

The move marks the latest in a decade of efforts to crack down on smoking in the nation's largest city.

Under federal law, no one under 18 can buy tobacco anywhere in the country, but some states and localities have raised it to 19. Texas lawmakers recently tried to increase the minimum age to 21, but the plan stalled.

Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the health commissioners he has appointed, including Farley, New York has rolled out a slate of anti-smoking initiatives.

Bloomberg, a billionaire who has given $600 million of his own money to anti-smoking efforts around the world, began taking on tobacco use in the city shortly after he became mayor in 2002.

Over his years in office, the city — at times with the council's involvement — helped impose the highest cigarette taxes in the country, barred smoking at parks and on beaches and conducted sometimes graphic advertising campaigns about the hazards of smoking.

Last month, the Bloomberg administration unveiled a proposal to keep cigarettes out of sight in stores until an adult customer asks for a pack, as well as stopping shops from taking cigarette coupons and honoring discounts.

Bloomberg's administration and public health advocates praise the initiatives as bold moves to help people live better. Adult smoking rates in the city have fallen from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 14.8 percent in 2011, Farley has said.

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