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New Tobacco Laws for NYC, Hawaii

This week New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed off on Ordinance No. 250, a bill passed by the New York City Council last month that would raise the city’s minimum tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21. New York is now the largest city in the U.S. To raise its tobacco purchase age to above 18, though possession of tobacco will still be legal within city limits for smokers ages 18-20.

The new law also sets a $10.50 minimum on the price of cigarettes sold in the city and imposes heavy fines on retailers who are found to be in non-compliance of the new age requirement.

The law will go into effect on May 1, 2014, four months after Bloomberg, a former smoker who is known for his outspoken opposition to tobacco use, leaves office on Jan 1st after serving three terms as mayor.

In related news, the Hawai’i County Council introduced a new bill on Wednesday that would raise their minimum tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21. Bill 135 amending Hawai’i County’s tobacco distribution laws will now go in front of Mayor William P. Kenoi, and if signed, will take effect on July 1, 2014. Similar to NYC’s new legislation, the bill will penalize retailers who are found in violation of the law with fines starting at $500 for a first offense and escalating to $2000 for subsequent offenses.

Other U.S. municipalities that have raised the tobacco purchase age include Needham and Canton, Massachussetts, who have both enacted a minimum purchase age of 21, and the states of Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey, and Utah who require tobacco-buyers to be at least 19 years of age. The City Council of Washington D.C. is also reported to be in development of a similar proposal.