NYC considers raising smoking age to 21

Apr 23, 2013

WHO Urges Smokers To Quit On World No Tobacco Day

New York City considers raising the age for legal cigarette purchase to 21. ; Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A new proposal in New York City could raise the age requirements for legal purchase of cigarettes from 18 to 21. The proposal would not prevent people between the ages of 18 and 21 from possessing or smoking cigarettes, but would restrict purchase of cigarettes to those 21 and older within city limits.

City council speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn and city health commissioner Dr. Thomas A. Farley defended the proposal, citing statistics that point to smoking becoming habitual rather than experimental around age 20. By limiting access to cigarettes within the city, the legislation would protect young smokers from lifelong addiction. Opponents to the proposal argue that at age 18, people are old enough to make their own decisions about smoking.

The number of young smokers has seen a steady decline in the past decade as it is – would the proposed legislation have much of an impact? Would young smokers go outside the city to purchase cigarettes? Is it appropriate to restrict access to legal goods for users over the age of 18?

Dr. Peter Ubel, physician and behavioral scientist who specializes in healthy policy and economics; Professor of Business Administration and Medicine & Professor of Public Policy, Duke University

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