New York's smoking laws due to be tightened
In the UK we have just come to the end of Stoptober, which finished on 28 October. The campaign was to encourage smokers to think about their health and the dangers of tobacco, in the hope that many will stop smoking for good. However, across the Atlantic Ocean it seems our American counterparts are just as dedicated to reducing the number of people smoking with the fantastic news that New York City Council has voted to increase the minimum age for buying cigarettes from 18 to 21. The current age limit of 18 years of age is a federal minimum that is standard in many places. Smokers are banned from smoking in any New York park and beach, in addition to the majority of the city’s restaurants. The banning of anyone under the age of 21 purchasing or being sold cigarettes in New York City is amongst the strictest anti-smoking legislation in the U.S., and will be set at a higher age than nearly all other areas of the U.S. with the exception of just a few select places. Those who lobbied for the change in the law have pointed to disappointing city statistics that show smoking rates for the youth of New York City has plateaued at 8.5% since 2007. New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is a strong advocate for anti-smoking measures and he now has 30 days to sign-off the bill. After this, the bill will be activated 180 days later. “We know that tobacco dependence can begin very soon after a young person first tries smoking so it's critical that we stop young people from smoking before they ever start,” Bloomberg said in a statement. Mr Bloomberg had initially attempted to pass through legislation that would force all shops to have cigarettes out of public view, but this plan was scrapped earlier this year. Another measure to be pushed through by New York City council members will see a base price of $10.50 (£6.55) being set for a packet of cigarettes and to bolster law enforcement’s role in the trade of illegal tobacco sales and distribution. “This will literally save many, many lives," said city councillor James Gennaro, the bill's sponsor, whose mother and father died from tobacco-related illnesses. "I've lived with it, I've seen it…but I feel good today.” As expected, cigarette companies have hit back and argue youths who smoke will simply turn to the black market to obtain their cigarettes, whilst there are those who consider it absurd that a person deemed to be old/mature enough to serve in the military is then told they are not old enough to smoke. “New York City already has the highest cigarette tax rate and the highest cigarette smuggling rate in the country," said Bryan D. Hatchell, a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which produces Camel and various other brands. “Those go hand in hand and this new law will only make the problem worse.” Following yesterday’s vote, New York is now the largest city by some distance to ban the sake of cigarettes to 19 and 20-year-olds and a similar ban could occur in Hawaii, depending on the vote in December. Presently, Needham, Massachusetts already has a minimum tobacco-buying age of 21 in, and this age will also be applied come January in nearby Canton, Massachusetts. New Jersey are also contemplating the same approach to buying cigarettes too.