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.
“It’s doomed to failure, unfortunately, by the sad realities of where kids are getting cigarettes these days,” Mr. Calvin told Politicker, claiming that purchases would simply go through un-taxed mediums. “There’s a thriving black market in all five boroughs, in the streets of New York, in neighboring jurisdictions–Nassau County, Westchester County, New Jersey–all would have lower ages.”
Mr. Calvin further said the city’s government should be focusing instead on making the actual act of underage smoking a civil violation.
“Rather than address these problems, the City Council leadership chooses to nibble around the edges of the smoking problem by increasing the purchase age,” he added. “I don’t get it.”
Mr. Calvin wasn’t the only bill’s only critic. Audrey Silk, the founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, blasted out a statement asking, “[A]t what age are we safe from the politicians’ tyranny?”
Correction: This post incorrectly stated Mr. Calvin’s position on underage smoking as criminalization instead of merely making the act a civil violation.