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New York City Will Require You to Be 21 to Buy Cigarettes

The New York City council voted to raise the required age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21. From the New York Times:

Buying cigarettes in New York City is about to become a lot harder for young people, as lawmakers on Wednesday adopted the strictest limits on tobacco purchases of any major American city.

The legal age for buying tobacco, including cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, cigars and cigarillos will rise to 21, from 18, under a bill adopted by the City Council and which Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has said he would sign. The new minimum age will take effect six months after signing.

New York City has long been a national leader in parentalistic laws in everything from prohibiting smoking in bars to banning trans-fats. Some of these laws first advanced in New York City were eventually adopted more widely. It is possible in a few years we could see several other cities and states follow NYC’s example on the issue of tobacco age limits.

I think this development is noteworthy for the marijuana reform movement because as marijuana is legalized one of the biggest regulator issues will be setting an age limit. Mainly the question is comes down to should it be 18 like cigarettes or 21 like alcohol?

At this point it overwhelmingly seems that 21 becomes the legal age for marijuana basically everywhere in the country as legalization advances. Most importantly, this is already the age limit for legal marijuana in Colorado and Washington State. The precedent has been set.

NYC also proves there is a real movement behind raising the age limit on tobacco up to 21 and this trend could spread to other parts of the country. If both tobacco and alcohol have an age limit of 21 in a location when marijuana is legalized it as almost guaranteed cannabis will be given the same age restrictions. It is extremely unlikely that the newest legal “vice” would end up with the lowest age limit.

Photo Alex Murphy under Creative Commons license

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at