21 on 21

number-21On April 22, 2013, the New York City Council proposed legislation (“Tobacco 21”) that would raise the minimum age requirement to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 across the City.

As the bill comes up before the City Council, here are 21 comments on the bill from elected officials, health organizations, community organizations, parents, tobacco control experts and youth.

1. Christine C. Quinn, Speaker, New York City Council 

“Too many adult smokers begin this deadly habit before age 21.  By delaying our city’s children and young adults access to lethal tobacco products, we’re decreasing the likelihood they ever start smoking, and thus, creating a healthier city.”

2. Katherine Leddick, Brooklyn resident and middle school parent

“As a Brooklyn resident, middle-school parent, and practicing psychologist, I am in favor of raising the age of purchasing tobacco products to 21, as one of several tactics to protect our youth.  An increased age requirement will support youth who chose not to smoke, and help teens and young adults avoid addiction.  Tobacco products contain seriously addictive chemicals and are a serious health risk.  Raising the age helps convey the seriousness of the decision to use tobacco products.  Education is also crucial and should be a part of middle school and high school curriculum.  Primary care doctors should also be important sources of education and prevention of addiction and other serious health risks.”

3. Maria del Carmen Arroyo, New York City Council Member and Chair of  Committee on Health

 “Raising the minimum age requirement to purchase tobacco products in New York City addresses the prevalence of youth smokers head-on and will make for a healthier city. This groundbreaking legislation will set a new standard for efforts to combat smoking, and I look forward to seeing a decrease in citywide youth smoking rates.”

4. Dr. Tom A. Farley, New York City Health Commissioner,  New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

“When used as intended, tobacco kills one-third of the people who use it.  By raising the legal purchase age to 21, we will prevent a generation of New Yorkers from becoming addicted to smoking and ultimately save thousands of lives.”

5. Dr. Cheryl Healton, Dean of Global Public Health at NYU and Professor of Public Policy at the Wagner School of Public Service

“NYC has been on the public health forefront by implementing evidence-based policies to reduce tobacco use and this new proposal will reduce tobacco consumption by youth, will likely avert tens of thousands of youth becoming addicted to nicotine and save many New Yorkers from suffering the health consequences of tobacco use.”

6. Dr. Michael Steinberg, Director of the Tobacco Dependence Program at Rutgers University

“If it’s been determined that a person should be 21 years of age to make a rational decision about the use of alcohol (a substance that kills far fewer people each year and is less physiologically addictive than tobacco), why shouldn’t tobacco require the same age of sale?  Clearly, persons aged 21 years have 3 more years of maturity than 18-year olds and are in a better position to make a well-informed decision to participate in a potentially unhealthy behavior that could affect the rest of their lives.”

7. Susan M. Liss, Executive Director, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

“Nearly all smokers start as kids or young adults, so curtailing smoking among these age groups is critical to winning the fight against tobacco and reducing the deaths, disease and health care costs it causes. This proposal will help New York City achieve these goals.”

8. Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President, Policy and Communications, World Lung Foundation

“Raising the age to 21 will spare generations from smoking-related diseases.”

9. Dr. Joseph R. DiFranza and Mardia Coleman, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Massachusetts

“In an unpublished survey of 539 high school students…90% of the adults purchasing tobacco for minors were under 21 years of age…Raising the minimum age to 21 would address this problem directly and would make tobacco laws consistent with the national minimum drinking age.”

10. Jeff Seyler, President and CEO, American Lung Association of the Northeast

“Considering that 85 percent of U.S. smokers begin their deadly habit before they reach age 21, this legislation would help prevent more youth from succumbing to an addiction that could cost them their lives.  We applaud New York City for their persistent effort to protect our kids from the tobacco industry’s relentless pursuit of new, younger customers.”

11. Marie Wilkins, former smoker featured in Marie’s Story, one of the “Tips from Former Smokers” presented by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“I support raising the age to buy cigarettes and I hope that with the law comes increased enforcement.  If we can ensure that less young people have access to cigarettes, we can ensure that less people will become addicted smokers.”

12. Josephine Bosco, ASSIST Cessation Center Director

“As a cessation specialist in the borough with the highest smoking rate I know firsthand how hard it is to quit.  Anything that we can do as a city to keep cigarettes away from young people will help us in the long run.”

13. John LaSora, Junior at Tottenville High School and member of Reality Check

“It will definitely help.  If you’re 18 and smoking you’re still a teenager.  If the minimum age is raised to 21 the maturity level of people buying cigarettes will be higher and that will help people make the right decision not to smoke.”

14. Jimmy Van Bramer, New York City Council Member

“As someone who has lost an immediate family member to lung cancer, I support any legislation that will decrease the harmful impacts of cigarettes.   I applaud Speaker Quinn and Council Member Gennaro for proposing this legislation, raising the smoking age to 21. Lifelong addiction to smoking begins at a young age, and the more we can do to prevent young people from becoming smokers, the better.”

15. Joanne Timmins, Community Organizer, Throggs Neck Community Action Partnership (TNCAP)

“TNCAP strongly supports City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s proposed legislation to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco to age 21. The 2012 Monitoring the Future survey indicates that tobacco use among youth doubles from 8th grade to 12th. We need to do more. This legislation is an important step in protecting the bright future of the youth in our communities by reducing access to tobacco. ”

16. Giselle Melendez-Susca, Executive Director, Kingsbridge Heights Community Center

“Raising the legal smoking age to 21 will be an important and big step to reducing the number of youth in NYC who smoke, which has been stuck at 8.5 percent for years.  If we can reduce the opportunity for teens to smoke during their most susceptible years, we will improve health and save lives in the Bronx.”

17. Johanna DeJesus, Vice President of Youth, Education, and Career Development Services, South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (SoBRO)

“Increasing the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 will limit our youth’s access to these harmful products.  With this legislation, New York City is giving young people a healthier start in life and a more promising future.”

18. James F. Gennaro, New York City Council Member

“When it comes to smoking, the science is clear: The earlier you start, the harder it is for you to quit. This proposal would take cigarettes and other tobacco products out of the equation for high school and younger college students during a time when they should be cultivating the healthy habits that will last them a lifetime.  In the 1980s, this country decided to limit the purchase of alcohol to persons 21 and over. Back then, the goal was to reduce the hundreds of fatalities each year due to drunk driving. Today, we stand in favor of this first-in-the-nation proposal to put the same age restriction on smoking, which takes the lives of thousands of Americans each year and costs this country billions of dollars in health care costs. I congratulate Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and Commissioner Farley for their support for this logical next step in the battle against tobacco use by people of all ages.”

19. Phil Konigsberg, Community Advocate, Queens Tobacco Control Coalition

“If you raise the legal age to 21, a 16- or 17-year-old is probably not going to be friendly or hang out with 21 year-olds who could buy them cigarettes; they’re young adults, and most likely have acquired different social circles by that age.”

20. Leticia James, New York City Council Member

“I’m proud to stand with Speaker Quinn and my Council colleagues in favor of protecting young people from the harmful impact of tobacco products.  This legislation is a smart and aggressive way to stop young people from smoking before they start down the path of nicotine addiction and the vicious cycle of chronic health problems caused by smoking.”

21. Heaven Benitez, Junior at Archimedes Academy High School

“The smoking age should be raised to 21 because a lot of young people are already addicted to cigarettes before then.  I think raising the age people can buy cigarettes will make it harder for kids to get tobacco products.”

(Comments without citations were sent directly to the NYC Coalition.)