NYC Kids May Have to Wait Until They’re 21 to Buy Cigarettes

New York City is tightening its campaign to rid the metropolis of its most significant cause of preventable deaths

In New York City, kids may have to wait until their 21st birthday not only to buy alcohol but to buy cigarettes, too. Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed raising the age someone can legally purchase cigarettes from 19 to 21 in a bill presented to the city council on Monday, the Guardian reports.

Although many young people in the city already manage to get ahold of cigarettes before their 18th birthday, research shows that they usually attain these cigarettes from kids only a few years at most older than them. If the city raises the limit to 21, the thinking goes, then it will be all the more difficult for youngsters to find a willing source to provide them with the carcinogens.

New York City is already the most expensive place in the U.S. to be a smoker, the Guardian points out, with a $4.35 state and a $1.50 city tax on every pack of cigarettes sold.

The bill marks the latest effort in the city’s decade-long fight to discourage smoking, which the city’s health commissioner, Thomas Farley, said was the most significant cause of preventable death in the city. In 2003, Bloomberg outlawed smoking in bars and restaurants, and smoking has since been banned in other public places, including parks.

One in four high school students in New York City smokes on a regular basis, and the majority of smokers begin the habit before their 18th birthday. The city is not alone in this problem. A study published in Health Education Research found, for example, that only a quarter of people who began smoking daily when they were in their teens had quit by the age of 28. For those who had friends or family members who smoked, the likelihood of them quitting was even lower.

A research paper published by the Campaign for Tabacco-Free Kids points out that the early a person tries smoking, the less likely he or she is of quitting the habit. Likewise, the earlier people begin smoking, the higher their risk of lung cancer and other health problems will be. The organization concludes:

Overall, roughly one-third of all kids who become regular smokers before adulthood will eventually die from smoking. If current trends continue, more than five million of the kids under 18 who are alive today will die from tobacco-related causes.

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