New York raises legal age for buying tobacco

NEW YORK -- Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has targeted sugar, salt and fat in his drive to make the city healthier, turned his attention to tobacco Tuesday as he signed legislation raising the age at which people can legally buy cigarettes from 18 to 21.

The law affects the kind that produce smoke and electronic cigarettes, which have been marketed as a healthy alternative but which city lawmakers say encourage young people to pick up the nicotine habit.

With Bloomberg's signature, New York City becomes the first major metropolitan area in the nation to have such a law. In addition to cigarettes, it prohibits retailers from selling chewing tobacco, rolling papers, pipes, powdered tobacco and small cigars to anyone younger than 21.

Critics pointed to the legislation as an example of Bloomberg trying to micro-manage New Yorkers' personal lives at the expense of small businesses who sell the targeted products. The new law requires retailers to post signs of the age requirement "in a conspicuous location" and to verify customers' ages through photo IDs.

"This is an issue of whether we're going to kill people," Bloomberg said at a City Hall signing ceremony. "This century, a billion people will die from smoking around the world, and we don't want any of the people that die to be New Yorkers."

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