NY lawmakers seek to raise smoking age to 21

A smoker puffs away at Tompkins Square Park A smoker puffs away at Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan. (Sept. 15, 2009) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Two state lawmakers plan to urge Albany to follow the Big Apple's fight against youth smoking.

State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) and state Assemb. Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) introduced bills in their respective legislative bodies Friday that would raise the minimum smoking age to 21 statewide.

Savino, who lost her parents and grandfather to lung cancer, said she supported the City Council's bill that will be introduced this week, raising the age in the five boroughs, because too many teens are getting hooked on tobacco.

"This is an illness, and an addiction that will last me for the rest of my life," the senator, a former smoker, said at a news conference Sunday.

Under the City Council bill, which the mayor supports, convenience stores caught selling tobacco to anyone under 21 would be fined.

The state bill also would issue fines, as well as strip the offending store of its license to sell tobacco.

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City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said raising the minimum age could reduce smoking between 18 and 20-year-olds by 55 percent, and thanked the state legislators for following suit.

"When New York leads, the rest of the country follows," said Quinn, who is running for mayor.

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