New Jersey lawmakers traveled all the way to New York City Hall Thursday to announce their plans to introduce legislation boosting the tobacco purchase age in the Garden State to 21. The announcement comes less than a month after City Council Speaker Christine Quinn unveiled similar plans for the city, which were quickly followed by lawmakers in Albany.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been accused of many things over the years, but at a press conference today, a representative of the New York Association of Grocery Stores provided a new nickname: magician.
“This mayor must be the great Houdini–he must be Houdini–because in 2001, when he took office, we were selling 42 million cartons of cigarettes in the City of New York,” the representative, David Schwartz, contended. “The great Houdini waved his magic wand and all of a sudden, in 2013 we’re selling 7 million cartons of cigarettes.”
Mr. Schwartz, needless to say, did not find that drop a credible reflection of actual declines in smoking.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that he, too, had his doubts about a plan to boost the age on purchasing cigarettes, until those tony folks in England tried it first.
“I was always skeptical,” Mr. Bloomberg told reporters following a press event Tuesday announcing a deal to build what officials touted as the largest ice complex on the planet at the stalled Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx.
“But it was actually done in England recently and it really did work,” he said.
Earlier today, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Health Commissioner Tom Farley unveiled new legislation to raise the city’s minimum age threshold for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21 years. The move was applauded by smoking advocates, including Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Lung Association of the Northeast and more, but not everyone was happy with the bill.
Notably, Jim Calvin, the president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, argued that the vast majority of underage smokers obtain their cigarettes from older relatives and friends–not by over-the-counter purchases–rendering the legislation ineffective.
On the 10th anniversary of New York City banning smoking in bars and restaurants, Mayor Michael Bloomberg rebuffed any claims that his controversial public health policies violate the underpinnings of American capitalism.
“We interfere with free enterprise all the time,” Mr. Bloomberg said this morning at a press conference commemorating the Smoke-Free Air Act. “We set minimum prices and sizes on lots of things. … Most of the cost of cigarettes is in taxes and they’re taxes that are enacted by Albany. So if you don’t like that, my suggestion is you go up to Albany and ask them why they’re taxing cigarettes. I happen to think it’s a great idea because it saves kids’s lives, so maybe you want to also talk to the parents of the kids and say, ‘We’re gonna try to stop this and have them smoke and they’ll die.'”