Smoking Age Raised To 21?

Teenagers looking to buy cigarettes in New York may have to look elsewhere if a city council proposal is approved and signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The proposal would raise the legal age to buy any form of tobacco from 18 to 21. But will it be effective in limiting smoking among young people?

Approximately 90% of smokers have already started smoking by age 18, according to the Surgeon General.

“Of every three young smokers, only one will quit, and one of the remaining smokers will die from tobacco-related causes,” according to the Surgeon General’s 2012 report, “Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults.”

The key is to “try to reduce the number of young people who ever try a cigarette,” said Dr. Michael Steinberg, director of the Tobacco Dependence Program at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Steinberg is the co-author of a commentary published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine that looks at the pros and cons of the New York proposal. Critics say small businesses will suffer, and the city will lose tax revenue. Others say the proposed law will be hard to enforce and will impinge upon individual rights.