Teenagers will soon be prohibited from buying cigarettes in NYC, as part of a new bill that Mayor Bloomberg signed into law today. The change goes into effect in 180 days, raising the minimum age on purchases of certain tobacco products and electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21. This makes NYC the first major city in America to raise the minimum age on tobacco purchases up to 21. Thanks de Blasio Councilmember James Gennaro! From our report when the bill passed in October:

Roughly 20,000 New York City high school students currently smoke. According to the office of the Surgeon General, 88% of adult smokers began smoking before the age of 18, and 90% of those who purchase cigarettes for minors are between the ages of 18 and 20.

"Imagine a law intended to define 18 to 20 year olds as stupid," smokers' rights advocate Audrey Silk posits in a press release. "Well that's what the NYC Council has on tap."
"The point of this bill has always been to prevent young people from smoking, because the data shows that the younger you start smoking, the harder it is to quit," said Paul Leonard, a spokesman for councilmember Gennaro.

As for e-cigarettes being covered under the bill, Leonard says, "E-cigarettes are an untested and addictive product. They contain nicotine. E-cig usage has more than doubled in the last year for high school students, so it was a no brainer to add e-cigarettes to the bill."

But Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, asks the AP, "What are you really accomplishing? It's not like they are going to quit smoking. Why? Because there are so many other places they can buy cigarettes. Every 18-year-old who walks out of a convenience store is just going to go to the guy in the white van on the corner." We don't know where Calvin grew up, but in our experience you didn't want to go anywhere NEAR that dude's white van.

Another bill signed into law today will keep the price of tobacco in NYC high by prohibiting coupons and other discounts and setting a minimum cigarette price of $10.50 per pack. "It is our belief—and our hope—that the City’s smoke-free efforts will serve as models for other jurisdictions in the weeks, months and years to come," Councilmember Gennaro and Speaker Christine Quinn said in a joint statement brimming with faith in our city's eagle-eyed bodega clerks.

Here is the full rallying cry from smoker's right's advocate Audrey Silk. It works best when you read it out loud with "One Day More" from Les Miz blasting in the background:

Imagine a law intended to define 18 to 20 years-olds as stupid. Then to rescind their adult status. Well that’s what the NYC Council and Bloomberg has done. Because if you are 18 to 20 years old they will cherish your vote. They will praise your involvement in the election process, just as Council Speaker Christine Quinn did when she paused thoughtfully and emotionally in her concession speech to make a special note of thanking “the hundreds of young people [for helping with the campaign].” “You are our future,” she said. That’s a vote of confidence for the young people who helped her.

Speaker Quinn, Mayor Bloomberg, and the rest of the council obviously think this age group is mature and intelligent enough to weigh the issues against the candidates and make an informed decision on who they want to lead not just you but the entire city. That’s a big responsibility. It shapes the future for everyone. And not a decision made with much serious time given to think about it. A few campaign months maybe?

But how do Speaker Quinn and the rest reward this group for their campaign assistance and vote they’ll gladly accept? By turning around and telling them that they can’t possibly be smart enough to decide whether or not to consume a legal product: cigarettes. That they are too immature to weigh that choice and make that informed decision. That they can’t be trusted to determine their own future. That they have to think FOR them because they have no confidence in them. And then by ripping their long-awaited adulthood out from under them and changing the cigarette sales age from 18 to 21.

In fact, considering the relentless anti-tobacco lectures received throughout this generation’s school years and public service announcements, it's easy to say they're more informed about smoking than they could ever be about someone who's asking them to choose them to lead. So what they know most about they don’t trust but what they know least about - THEM - they welcome with trusting and loving arms.

But who needs integrity when they’ve already got their vote, right? This is the message these politicians have for you 18 to 20 years olds who help them into office: "Thanks for your vote but don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out."