New York continues public health push with proposed changes to tobacco age

Big Apple leaders want to raise the minimum age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21

If the city of New York has its way, 18 year olds in the Big Apple will have the right to marry, vote, and drive, but they would not be able to buy cigarettes.

The city's council introduced a bill that would change the minimum age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21.  The bill has the backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Some feel that this latest initiative is just another way for 'Big Brother' to interfere with personal health decisions.

Local 4's medical expert Dr. Frank McGeorge said he feels torn.  He said on one hand we need to encourage and educate people to take personal responsibility
for their health, but on the other hand, New York's changes have spread across the country and had a positive impact.

This latest bill continues what has been the city's strong public health agenda under Bloomberg's leadership.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned smoking in restaurants and bars in 2003.  It wasn't the first smoking ban in the U.S., but it helped bring the issue into the national spotlight.  The no smoking ban in restaurants and bars became law in Michigan in 2009.

Bloomberg expanded the ban in 2011 by prohibiting smoking in public places.

New York seemed to set a trend again in 2006 when trans fats were also banned from New York restaurants.  In fact, as a result, many chain restaurants voluntarily eliminated the use of trans fats everywhere.

Trans fats have been shown to contribute to heart disease.

New York was also the first to require calorie counts be posted in restaurant chains.  The city adopted that in 2008, but it has also happened on a national scale in many restaurants.

Bloomberg has most recently proposed banning the sale of sodas over 16 ounces, an initiative that is currently in the courts.

As for raising the minimum age to buy cigarettes, Bloomberg's office said he looks forward to signing the bill into law.

In New York, eight in 10 smokers started smoking regularly when they were younger than 21 years old.

There is data suggesting between 30 and 50 percent of people between 18 and 21 might never start smoking if it became more difficult for them to get cigarettes.

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