Story highlights

  • NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg signs law raising tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21
  • The law takes effect in 60 days
  • New York City becomes the largest city to have an age limit as high as 21

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed legislation Tuesday raising the tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21. The law takes effect in six months.

In addition to the “Tobacco 21” bill, which also covers electronic cigarettes, Bloomberg signed a second bill, dubbed Sensible Tobacco Enforcement, which prohibits discounts on tobacco products and increases enforcement on vendors who attempt to evade taxes. New York State’s Department of Health estimates that cigarette excise tax evasion deprived the state of $500 million in 2009.

“By increasing the smoking age to 21, we will help prevent another generation from the ill health and shorter life expectancy that comes with smoking,” Bloomberg said in a written statement when the legislation was approved by the city council in October.

New York City becomes the largest city to have an age limit as high as 21. Needham, Massachusetts, raised the sale age to 21 in 2005, according to the New York City Department of Health.

Neighboring states and counties have raised the tobacco sale age to 19, including New Jersey in 2005, the Department of Health said.

Raising the sale age “will protect teens and may prevent many people from ever starting to smoke,” Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley said in a statement released after the vote.

Doctors support raising the smoking age

This is the latest step in the outgoing mayor’s mission for healthier New York City lifestyles.

In September 2012, the Board of Health voted to ban the sale of sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces in restaurants and other venues, a measure Bloomberg spearheaded.

The ban was later tossed out by a New York State Supreme Court judge.

Sugary drinks linked to 180,000 deaths worldwide

Fyi: starting today, you must be 19 to buy cigarettes in onondaga county

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The legal age for purchasing cigarettes and tobacco products in Onondaga County will rise to 19 today.

The county’s Tobacco 19 law forbids the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to 18 year olds, effectively raising the county’s smoking age to 19. The only exceptions will be sales to 18 year old members of the military.

Stores will have to post signs advertising the new sales age, and vendors caught breaking the law will be subject to fines ranging from $300 to $1,000 for the first violation, and $500 to $1,500 for subsequent offenses.

The measure was passed by the Onondaga County Legislature in January, overriding the veto of County Executive Joanie Mahoney. Advocates say the law will discourage 18 year old high school students from buying smokes and passing them to younger students.

Onondaga County will join Nassau and Suffolk counties, which also have enacted Tobacco 19 laws. The rest of New York’s counties enforce the state’s ban on selling tobacco to customers 17 and younger.