NYC Proposes Raising Age for Cigarette Purchases

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Bloomberg, a billionaire who has given $600 million of his own money to anti-smoking efforts around the world, began taking on tobacco use in the city shortly after he became mayor in 2002.

Over his years in office, the city — at times with the council’s involvement — helped impose the highest cigarette taxes in the country, barred smoking at parks and on beaches and conducted sometimes graphic advertising campaigns about the hazards of smoking.

Last month, the Bloomberg administration unveiled a proposal to keep cigarettes out of sight in stores until an adult customer asks for a pack, as well as stopping shops from taking cigarette coupons and honoring discounts.

Bloomberg’s administration and public health advocates praise the initiatives as bold moves to help people live better. Adult smoking rates in the city have fallen from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 14.8 percent in 2011, Farley has said.

But the measures also have drawn complaints, at least initially, that they are nannyish and bad for business.

Several of New York City’s smoking regulations have survived court challenges. But a federal appeals court said last year that the city couldn’t force tobacco retailers to display gruesome images of diseased lungs and decaying teeth.

Quinn, a leading Democratic candidate to succeed Bloomberg next year, has often been perceived as an ally of his.

Bloomberg also has pushed a number of other pioneering public-health measures, such as compelling chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus, banning artificial trans fats in restaurants, and attempting to limit the size of sugary drinks. A court struck down the big-beverage rule last month, but the city is appealing and Bloomberg has urged voluntary compliance in the meantime.

While Bloomberg has led the way on many anti-smoking initiatives, this one arose from the City Council, Farley said. City Councilman James Gennaro, who lost his mother to lung cancer after she smoked for decades, has been a particularly strong advocate.

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