Yesterday, the New York City Council , in a late-night, pre-Halloween session, passed a measure raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products including e-cigarettes to 21. NYC thereby becomes the largest municipality by far to raise the smoking age that high.
While fiercely opposed by retailers who sell cigarettes as well as libertarians opposed to excessive government regulation and interference with personal habits, we here at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH.org) support this change. We do so with a sense of profound relief that stringent restrictions on e-cigarettes such as by requiring them to go through the clinical trial route, which would have, in effect, banned them were not included, although some had advocated for those as recently as August. (ACSH representatives met with aides to the Council in August to educate them and hopefully dissuade any who might favor e-cigarette restrictions). Nor were restrictions on the nicotine liquids favored by many adult vapers included, another plus for the City's public health.
The key to our support the lack of reduction in access to e-cigarettes for addicted smokers derives from our firm belief that if allowed unfettered access to the marketplace (except for the age restriction), e-cigarettes represent the best hope to get more addicted smokers off of deadly toxic cigarettes. Also, our support is somewhat balanced by the knowledge that the age increase will help reduce the toll of teen smoking initiation only slightly. Same as it ever was, kids will find ways to get smokes despite the law; indeed, a reliable estimate says that well over half of the cigarettes smoked in NYC are illicit, due to the extremely high tax rates and thus the cost of cigarettes here. Teens and those seeking to save money on feeding their cigarette addiction will find ready sources: "loosies" from bags of single cigarettes on the street, or coming in truckloads from Virginia, North Carolina, and even New Jersey.
Another measure that had been floated over the past year or so, to ban visible cigarette cartons and packs from view, also did not "make the cut" and the cloaking of cigarettes will not occur. The Council vote was 35-10; Mayor Bloomberg has 30 days to sign or veto all expectations are that he will OK it and the measure will take effect 180 days thereafter, so on approximately the first day of May 2014, if all goes according to plan.