To Smoke No More?

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The city and state may raise the minimum age to purchase cigarettes. Local residents respond to the initiative. By Joanna Fantozzi & Allison Volpe Recently, the City Council addressed the issue of raising the smoking age from 18 to 21. New York State is following suit with Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal's bill that would make it illegal for those under 21 to buy cigarettes. The bill bans suppliers and stores from selling any tobacco products to under-age youths. Each year in New York, according to the Assembly Member, 53,000 people under the age of 18 become regular smokers. As a former smoker herself, Rosenthal wants to try and nip young nicotine habits in the bud. "From a personal standpoint I started smoking when I was 17 and I smoked for almost 20 years," said Rosenthal. "I went through the whole get addicted when you're younger thing. You also don't realize how badly you feel until you stop smoking for awhile, its so hard to quit." We took to the streets on the Upper West Side to find out what local residents think of the push to keep cigarettes out of the hands of teenagers. Neal Bloom, 42, Tribeca "I'm completely for it. I have two kids of my own, and I'd be really disappointed if either of them became smokers. It is just so terrible for your health, and I don't think young people fully understand that. So I think raising the age would be very helpful." Robert Ferrara, 20, Upper West Side "I think it's ridiculous. I have every right to be able to smoke a pack of cigarettes. It's ridiculous enough that the drinking age is 21. People my age are allowed to get married and fight in wars, yet we can't drink and shouldn't be able to smoke? It doesn't make sense." Erin Earey, 28, East Village "I mean, if kids really want to smoke, they're going to find a way to get their hands on cigarettes regardless. I'd be for it though. My brother has been smoking since he was 14, and I really wish he didn't. It does worry me." Jenny Son, 24, Lower East Side "I'm all for it. Too many young people smoke and are destroying their health so early. I don't think 18 year olds realize what a serious decision they're making when smoking. Three years may not seem like a lot of time, but I think a college freshman is more susceptible to start smoking than someone who is about to graduate." Joseph Awgul, 35, Upper East Side "I honestly don't care either way. I think most kids smoke when they're a teenager in high school or in college, and then just stop when they get older. I don't see it as a pressing issue."

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