It will soon be much harder for people under 21 to buy cigarettes in New York, thanks to a new law overwhelmingly approved by the City Council on Wednesday.
The rules, which take effect in six months, ban the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21, putting cigarettes in the same league as alcohol. New York thus becomes the largest city in the nation with such a ban.
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A similar law is in effect in Needham, Mass., and the nearby town of Canton is expected to consider adopting an identical measure in January, according to The Associated Press
. Hawaii may vote on a bill banning tobacco sales to those under 21 as early as next month, and New Jersy is considering such a proposal.
New York’s legislation not only bans tobacco sales to those under 21, it also bans the sale of increasingly popular electronic cigarettes. And it raises the minimum price for a pack of cigarettes to $10.50.
Critics of the restrictions say it makes no sense to force people to wait until they are 21 to legally buy a cigarette when people 18, 19, and 20 are old enough to vote and can fight in a war. Their arguments were being made on Twitter.
Supporters say the benefits far outweigh any drawbacks.
“This is literally legislation that will save lives,” City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn said before the bill passed on a 35-10 vote, according to a New York Times report
Merchants who ignore the new rules can face fines of $1,000 or more, and repeat offenders could have to forfeit a license that allows them to sell tobacco.
Several teenagers who have been interviewed by reporters say they will continue doing what they’ve always done: Ask others to buy cigarettes for them, or simply bum one from strangers.
It was an argument that some on Twitter were quick to make.
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