Pols would ban cigs ’til you join ‘21’ club

New York Post - - NEWS - By KIRSTAN CON­LEY, GINA DAIDONE and NATALIE O’NEILL kcon­ley@ny­post.com

New York State law­mak­ers want to stomp out teenage cig­a­rette ad­dic­tion by rais­ing the le­gal smok­ing age to 21 — the same as buy­ing booze.

A bill to raise the age limit to buy to­bacco prod­ucts from 18 to 21 could hit the Leg­is­la­ture floor in Al­bany as soon as this week, law­mak­ers said.

“We want to pre­vent dis­ease by stop­ping peo­ple from be­gin­ning a smok­ing habit in the first place,” said Assem­bly­woman Linda Rosen­thal (D-Man­hat­tan), chief au­thor of the bill.

“It’s a cost to so­ci­ety. It’s a cost to in­di­vid­u­als. The bill is a sure pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sure against all sorts of med­i­cal is­sues down the road,” she added.

But teenagers and to­bacco hawk­ers in the Big Ap­ple slammed it as a buzz kill — say­ing it won’t actually pre­vent young peo­ple from light­ing up.

“It won’t make a dif­fer­ence! If peo­ple want some­thing, they’re gonna get it,” said Alex Wil­liams, 19, an oc­ca­sional smoker from the Kings­bridge sec­tion of The Bronx.

“Laws like that are a joke,” he fumed.

Nazir Chowd­hury, 64 — a clerk who sell cig­a­rettes at Best Gourmet Deli in The Bronx — said law- mak­ers should sim­ply butt out.

“If [teens] want it, they’ll get some­one else to buy it,” he said. “How will that make a change?”

Ev­ery year in New York state, 53,000 kids un­der 18 be­come reg­u­lar smok­ers, ac­cord­ing to Rosen­thal’s memo on the bill.

Half of the peo­ple who start smok­ing as teens will later die from to­bacco-re­lated ill­nesses, the data sug­gest.

Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Is­land/Brooklyn) is cham­pi­oning the pro­posed law in the up­per house with more than a dozen cospon­sors.

Sen. Fred Ak­shar (R-Bing­ham­ton), a bill co-spon­sor said, “The amount of peo­ple we lose due to can­cer and all things re­lated to to­bacco prod­ucts re­quires us to make some changes.”

The bill has been re­ported out of the Assem­bly and Se­nate health com­mit­tees and could come up for a vote by Wed­nes­day.

Op­po­nents in the Leg­is­la­ture said rais­ing the smok­ing age is un­fair to young peo­ple.

As­sem­bly­man Ray Wal­ter, a Buf­falo-area Repub­li­can, said he plans to vote against it.

“We send our sol­diers off to die at age 18. You’re telling me they’re not re­spon­si­ble enough to de­cide whether or not they can pur­chase to­bacco?” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

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