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.
‘‘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.