In the latest move to snuff out smoking in New York, the City Council is voting Wednesday on whether to bar anyone under the age of 21 from buying cigarettes and e-cigarettes.
Under federal law, no one under 18 can buy tobacco anywhere in the country, but some states and localities have raised it to 19.
Public health advocates say a higher minimum age discourages, or at least delays, young people from starting smoking and thereby limits their health risks. But opponents of such measures have said 18-year-olds, legally considered adults, should be able to make their own decisions about whether or not to smoke.
Some communities, including Needham, Mass., have raised the minimum age to 21, but New York would be the biggest city to do so.
Officials say 80 percent of city smokers started before age 21, and an estimated 20,000 New York City public high school students now smoke. While it’s already illegal for many of them to buy cigarettes, officials say this measure would play a key role by making it illegal for them to turn to slightly older friends to buy smokes for them. The vast majority of people who get asked to do that favor are between 18 and 21 themselves, city officials say.
Under Mayor Bloomberg and the health commissioners he has appointed, including Farley, New York has rolled out a slate of anti-smoking initiatives.