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Speaker Christine Quinn yesterday announced legislation that would raise the legal age for purchasing cigarettes to 21, up from 18. The idea was originally proposed by Queens Councilman James Gennaro. Mayor Bloomberg supports the proposal, although he opposed a similar plan in 2006. His office said his position changed after seeing data from the UK showing that a higher age limit would cut smoking for among teens. Data from the journal Health Policy also found similar results.

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Lawmakers want New York City to be the first city in the U.S. to raise the legal smoking age to 21 from 18.

The law would make ban vendors from selling any tobacco products to New Yorkers under the age of 21, which Council Speaker Christine Quinn cautiously likened to the sale of alcoholic drinks.

She pointed to an 80 percent decline in drunk driving deaths after the drinking age increased in the 1980s.

Quinn stood alongside Health Department Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, fellow council memebers and anti-smoking advocates when she unveiled the new legislation today. The bill would join a group of bills also recently endorsed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg aimed at curbing New Yorkers' smoking habits.

"This can work," Quinn said during a press event at City Hall.

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Mayor Bloomberg introduced a bill yesterday that would force retailers to keep cigarettes out of view from customers. It would not affect advertising, which falls under First Amendment protections. Speaker Quinn said she is very open to the idea. A Health Department study found that 80 percent of stores selling cigarettes devote most of their space behind the register to tobacco displays. A British study found that simply noticing tobacco on display raised the odds kids would try smoking by threefold. A second proposed bill would raise penalties for retailers who evade tobacco taxes and create a minimum price of $10.50 per pack. Retailers complain they will lose a lot of business.

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Out of sight, out of mind — that's how Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to reduce smoking rates among youth in the nation's biggest city.

Bloomberg announced today that he's going to push for new anti-tobacco restrictions, including a first-in-the-country law that would mandate retail stores hide away tobacco products except during sales to adults or when they are being restocked.

He said the bill tackles the pervasive in-store marketing of tobacco products to young people.

"New York City has dramatically lowered our smoke rate," Bloomberg said in a statement. "But even one new smoker is one too many — especially when it's a young person."

Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said the adult smoking rate had decreased from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 14.8 percent in 2011. But he said "youth smoking rates have remained flat at 8.5 percent since 2007."

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