New York, NY - New Restrictions on Teenage Smoking Are Opposed by the Mayor and by Council Member Simcha Felder

Published on: October 20th, 2006 at 08:02 AM

New York, NY - Mayor Bloomberg, who won a reputation as an anti-tobacco activist, is now vowing to veto two anti-teen-smoking proposals that are before the City Council.

City Council members expressed surprise at the mayor's position. "I'm speechless. I am speechless," said Council Member James Gennaro, a Queens Democrat who is the sponsor of a bill to increase the minimum legal age to buy cigarettes in the city to 19 from 18. Mr. Gennaro pronounced himself "flabbergasted."

A second proposal, sponsored by the Democratic leader, Joel Rivera, would go further, banning the sale of cigarettes to anyone younger than 21.

Mr. Bloomberg and his health advisers say similar restrictions on cigarette sales to teenagers in places like Nassau and Suffolk counties haven't proved effective.

An assistant health commissioner for tobacco control, Sarah Perl, said increasing the minimum age would increase cigarettes' "forbidden fruit" appeal, which she said tobacco-industry documents suggest could make smoking more alluring to young people. "Sending the message that ‘smoking is an adult choice' may paradoxically play into the hands of the tobacco industry and attract more children to tobacco," Ms. Perl said.

The only council member during the bulk of the hearing who also questioned the wisdom of the bans was Simcha Felder of Brooklyn. "It's not popular to say anything against a bill that would be prohibiting smoking," Mr. Felder said, adding, "Take a census, certainly from the 18-, 19-, 20-, 21-year olds, and they'll say to you, ‘if we can go out to war and potentially be killed we should have the right to buy a pack of cigarettes.'"

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