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