More States Consider Raising Minimum Age for Tobacco Sales

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More States Consider Raising Minimum Age for Tobacco Sales


TRENTON, N.J. -- New York City has always been known as a trendsetter. But there is one trend retailers are hoping won't catch on -- increasing the legal age to buy tobacco products.

In April, several members of the New York City Council introduced legislation that would raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. The measure is currently before the council's health committee. Within days, two New York State elected officials proposed similar legislation at the state level, as CSNews Online previously reported.

Now, New Jersey officials are also considering the move. On Thursday, State Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex) unveiled a proposal to raise New Jersey's legal age from 19 to 21. Codey signed legislation hiking the age from 18 to 19 in 2006 while governor, The Star-Ledger reported.

"In the long run, this will prevent young adults from starting at a younger age," Codey said.

He was joined in his announcement by New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who noted that the effort has "now truly become a regional, if not national, effort."

The legal age to buy tobacco products in most states is still 18, but New Jersey, Alaska, Alabama, Utah and a few New York counties have set the age at 19.

Meanwhile, a bill to raise the legal age to 21 is pending in the Texas legislature. Only two towns in Massachusetts have set the legal age that high, the newspaper added.

Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline-Convenience-Automotive Association, said increasing the legal age is "dumb," adding it would do little to curb teen smoking while burdening gas station and convenience store operators.

"The legislature should let parents steer their children away from cigarettes. The laws are not going to do it," Risalvato told the newspaper. "This is going to make it more difficult for small-business owners to check IDs, and these kids are going to figure out a way around it. They may use false IDs or [ask] someone else to buy their cigarettes."

Risalvato said the bill would also drive some to buy their smokes online or across state lines, depriving New Jersey of revenue.