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NEW YORK -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday signed into law a bill that raises the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 from 18.
The law, set to take effect in mid-May, could be Bloomberg's last major move before his 12-year run as mayor concludes. The law will become the strictest of any major city in the United States.
"People always try to put things like selling cigarettes in the context of jobs and whether or not it helps or hurts stores," Bloomberg said, according to a Wall Street Journal report. "I think that is just so outrageously misplaced. This is an issue of whether we're going to kill people. This century, a billion die from smoking around the world. And we don't want any of the people to die to be New Yorkers."
According to Thomas Farley, New York City's commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the new law is so important because approximately 80 percent of the city's smokers began before the age of 21.
A companion bill, also signed into law by Bloomberg yesterday, creates new penalties for the evasion of cigarette taxes, bans discounts on sales involving cigarettes, sets a price floor on packs of cigarettes and little cigars at $10.50, and requires inexpensive cigars to be sold in packages of no fewer than four, the Journal reported.
Although New York City is the first major municipality to raise the legal tobacco purchasing age to 21, the state of Utah is considering a similar law. Utah would be the first state to raise the tobacco buying age to 21. It currently allows residents to purchase tobacco legally at age 19.
"If we can make sure that we keep them away from what everybody now admits are substances with no redeeming value, then I think we'll be able to protect a lot of people from health damage and protect society from hundreds of millions of dollars in costs," said Rep. Kraig Powell (R-Heber City), who is co-sponsoring the Utah bill with Sen. Stuart Reid (R-Ogden).