ALBANY, N.Y. -- Following New York City's lead, state lawmakers in New York State have taken up the cause to raise the minimum age for cigarette purchases from 18 to 21 statewide.
State Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal announced the legislation at a news conference Sunday in New York City. The bill was introduced on Friday.
If passed, New York would become the first state to raise the minimum age to buy cigarettes to 21. Four states and some communities have increased the age to 19, and at least two towns have agreed to raise it to 21.
Savino says "anything we can do to stop young people from starting is a step in the right direction."
"It would completely remove 18-year-olds who are usually current high school seniors. It would remove them from the situation of being influential on the younger people to use tobacco and also them purchasing it for underage children," said Justin Hladik, extension community educator.
"Regardless of what you do people are always going to find ways of getting hold of it and if they raise, they raise the age to 21 you know people are going to always have friends and family. Someone can buy them a pack of cigarettes," said Smokers Choice cashier Kordel Sutton.
"We don't expect it in our bars or restaurants and this is another possible cultural change to really discourage it. And the longer we discourage it, the more we can prevent it all together," said Assemblywoman Pat Fahy.
Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin disagrees. While he's opposed to smoking he believes the focus should be on prevention programs, not more state regulations.
"The age of adulthood is 18 years old. You're an adult, you have choices you're going to make and if it's a legal product, which it is, once you're an adult you have the ability to buy that product," said McLaughlin.
A hearing on the city's proposal to raise the minimum age to 21 is scheduled for May 2nd.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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