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NYC council votes to make tobacco-buying age 21

NEW YORK — Smokers younger than 21 in the nation’s biggest city will soon be barred from buying cigarettes after the New York City Council voted overwhelming Wednesday to raise the tobacco-purchasing age to higher than all but a few other places in the United States.

Lawmakers approved the bill — which raises from 18 to 21 the purchasing age for cigarettes, certain tobacco products, and electronic-vapor smokes — and another that sets minimum prices for tobacco cigarettes and steps up policing of illegal sales.

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‘‘This will literally save many, many lives,’’ said an emotional City Councilman James Gennaro, the bill’s sponsor, whose parents died from tobacco-related illnesses. ‘‘I’ve lived with it, I’ve seen it . . . but I feel good today.’’

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is a strong supporter of the tough smoking restrictions, has 30 days to sign the bills into law.

New York is by far the biggest city to bar cigarette sales to 19- and 20-year-olds. Similar legislation is expected to come to a vote in Hawaii this December. The tobacco-buying age is 21 in Needham, Mass., and is poised to rise to 21 in January in Canton.

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