The New York City Council has approved another set of harsh NYC tobacco laws. The anti-smoking bills are part of Bloomberg’s radical health agenda. Whether that agenda is radically good or radically bad depends on where your politics lie. However, any way that you look at it, Bloomberg is far more dedicated to health-focused legislation that any other mayor in the country.
The Tobacco 21 law will ban anyone under the age of 21 from buying tobacco. The Sensible Tobacco Enforcement prohibits vendors from giving out coupons or discounts and increases the enforcement of tax laws.
On the Tobacco 21 law, Bloomberg said: “By increasing the smoking age to 21, we will help prevent another generation from the ill health and shorter life expectancy that comes with smoking.”
Seems logical, right? When you allow fewer New Yorkers to buy cigarettes, you end up with fewer smokers in the city. That may be true but that hasn’t deterred Bloomberg’s critics who slam the health-conscious mayor for creating a nanny state in New York City. They claim that Bloomberg’s radical health agenda is creating harsh NYC tobacco laws that unfairly keep tobacco out of the hands of people who can legally drive, vote, and serve their country.
The Tobacco 21 is one of the strictest tobacco laws in the United States and the restrictions include electronic cigarette purchases. A suburb of Boston recently enacted a similar 21+ law but, of course, the tiny city’s restrictions were quickly forgotten by the rest of the country. NYC is the only large city in the U.S. to ban tobacco sales after the age of 18.
The increased restrictions on tobacco are just the latest in Bloomberg’s mission to make New York City residents healthier. His 2012 initiative to ban sodas over 16 ounces garnered him national attention. The soda ban was supposed to help fight against the city’s obesity epidemic, but it just turned into a controversial mess that was overturned by the NY Supreme Court in March 2013. Bloomberg appealed the overturn and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene joined his fight in June 2013.
On top of sugary drinks, NYC Mayor Bloomberg has fought to ban trans fat and add nutrition labels to restaurant menus. However, while nutrition is important in his policies, smoking laws have always been at the top of Bloomberg’s political agenda.
One of Bloomberg’s first moves after coming to office was the Smoke-Free Air Act. In 2003, the controversial law created some of the nation’s strictest anti-smoking laws. While it was criticized heavily at the time, Bloomberg called it a sweeping success after looking at a decade’s worth of impact.
If the laws are too strict or not strict enough is up for debate, but the change in NYC’s smoking rates are clear. In 2002, 21.5 percent of New Yorkers smoked. By 2011, that number was down to just 14.8 percent. As Bloomberg moves forward with his radical health agenda in NYC, time will tell if the NYC tobacco laws can really cut down on teen smoking.
Written by Nicci Mende