The legal age for buying tobacco, including cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, cigars and cigarillos will rise to 21, from 18, under a bill adopted by the City Council and which Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has said he would sign. The new minimum age will take effect six months after signing.

The proposal provoked some protest among people who pointed out that New Yorkers under 21 can drive, vote and fight in wars, and should be considered mature enough to decide whether to buy cigarettes. But the Bloomberg administration s argument that raising the age to buy cigarettes would discourage people from becoming addicted in the first place won the day.

This is literally legislation that will save lives, Christine C. Quinn, the Council speaker, said shortly before the bill passed 35 to 10.

In pushing the bill, city officials said that the earlier people began smoking, the more likely they were to become addicted. And they pointed out that while the youth smoking rate in the city has declined by more than half since the beginning of the mayor s administration, to 8.5 percent in 2007 from 17.6 percent in 2001, it has recently stalled.

Besides raising the age to buy cigarettes, the Council also approved various other antismoking measures, such as increased penalties for retailers who evade tobacco taxes, a prohibition on discounts for tobacco products, and a minimum price of $10.50 a pack for cigarettes and little cigars.

The new law is a capstone to more than a decade of efforts by Mr. Bloomberg, like banning smoking in most public places, that have given the city some of the toughest antismoking policies in the world.

In one concession to the cigarette industry, the administration dropped a proposal that would force retailers to keep cigarettes out of sight. City officials said they were doing it because they had not resolved how to deal with the new phenomenon of electronic cigarettes, but others worried that if the tobacco industry lodged a First Amendment challenge to the so called display ban, it could have derailed the entire package.

The smoking age is 18 in most of the country, but some states have made it 19. Some counties have also adopted 19, including Nassau and Suffolk on Long Island. Needham, Mass., a suburb of Boston, raised the smoking age to 21 in 2005.

James Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, warned on Wednesday that thousands of retail jobs could be lost because the law would reduce traffic not just for tobacco, but also on incidental purchases like coffee or lottery tickets. He predicted that the law would do little to curb smoking, as it does not outlaw the possession of cigarettes by under age smokers, only their purchase.

Just before the vote, Nicole Spencer, 16, was in Union Square in Manhattan with a cigarette wedged between her fingers.

I don t think that s going to work, Nicole said when she heard about the plan to raise the age.

She said she began smoking when she was about 13, and had no trouble getting cigarettes. I buy them off people or I bum them off people, she said.

She said that probably half of her friends at her high school smoked.

Nicole said she thought 18 was a reasonable legal age, echoing Councilman Jumaane D. Williams, who said he voted no because it was not right for the city to ask young people to make life or death decisions as police officers and firefighters yet to have no ability to buy a pack of cigarettes.

Researchers call for restrictions on e-cigarette claims –

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A fair amount of conversation about e cigarettes has involved their use in purportedly helping people to quit smoking. Researchers on Monday said the evidence for that has been “unconvincing,” and they suggest that regulations should forbid such claims until there s supporting research.

In a letter Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. Internal Medicine, researchers from the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education and the Department of Medicine at UC San Francisco noted that e cigarettes are “aggressively promoted as smoking cessation aids.”

Electronic cigarettes, or e cigarettes, are battery operated they heat substances that usually include nicotine to deliver a vapor for inhalation that often also contains flavors (fruit, bubble gum and others). Unlike conventional cigarettes, there s no tar or carbon monoxide. It s estimated to be a $2 billion business.

Detractors say they are a means to make smoking socially acceptable again, and that they target young people.

The researchers cited studies on the topic. One trial comparing e cigarettes with and without nicotine and a nicotine patch found no differences in rates of quitting over six months. And a study that said that although 85% of e cigarette users said they were doing so to quit, they did not quit more frequently than people who didn t use e cigarettes.

In their own study, the researchers surveyed 949 smokers and found that use of e cigarettes at the start of the study did not predict quitting a year later. And among those who smoked at the start and a year later, use of e cigarettes was “not associated with a change in cigarette consumption.”

The researchers said that more women, younger adults and people with less education use e cigarettes.

“Regulations should prohibit advertising, claiming or suggesting that e cigarettes are effective smoking cessation devices until claims are supported by scientific evidence,” the researchers Rachel Grana, Lucy Popova and Pamela Ling wrote.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Michael Katz wrote, “Unfortunately, the evidence on whether e cigarettes help smokers to quit is contradictory and inconclusive.” He added that he agreed with the researchers about claims around quitting and said that e cigarettes should be regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “as a drug delivery device.”

E cigarette detractors say they could lead to increased smoking. Others make the argument that they re safer in public places and can help people quit smoking. Some communities, including Los Angeles, have restricted their use.


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