Bloomberg Credits Britain for Inspiring Him to Raise Smoking Age

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he was also skeptical about raising the age on cigarette sales. (Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Conde Nast)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he was also skeptical about raising the age on cigarette sales. (Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Conde Nast)

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.

The plan, unveiled by City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley and City Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn on Monday, would make New York the first major city in the country to raise the minimum age on the purchase of cigarettes from 18 to 21.

It’s just the latest effort in the city’s battle to snuff out cigarettes, following bans in parks, bars and restaurants and a bid to force shop owners to keep smokes out of sight.

But the mayor said that, this time, the idea wasn’t his. In fact, he’d opposed it when it was first proposed. But now he said that anything that might make it more difficult for teens to get hooked was worth a test.

“I think it’s certainly worth trying,” he said.

Mr. Bloomberg’s spokeswoman, Samantha Levine, also credited a recent plateau in the city’s teen smoking rate for the change of heart.

“You may have seen we recently proposed some other measures we had not supported before–requiring stores to remove cigarettes from public view and setting a minimum price – to try to address this. So we revisited this proposal and found new data from the UK that shows it can have an impact,” she said.