Tough on Tobacco: In NYC, Wait Until 21 for a Drink and a Smoke


In New York City, it is illegal for people under the age of 21 to purchase tobacco products, despite being legal elsewhere. (Courtesy of Flickr).

In New York City, it is illegal for people under the age of 21 to purchase tobacco products, despite being legal elsewhere. (Courtesy of Flickr).

In New York City, it is illegal for people under the age of 21 to purchase tobacco products, despite being legal elsewhere. (Courtesy of Flickr).

By Faustino Galante

Tobacco is the easiest and most pleasant way to end your life slowly and steadily. Whether you like it in a pipe, in a paper littered with chemicals or even in the crevice between your teeth and lips, two things are the same across the board: if you are a user, you smell bad and you are hurting your health.

For the record, I have nothing against tobacco users. Most of my childhood summers were spent in Pescara, Italy. I was basically born breathing in second-hand smoke. In first grade, my teacher asked my classmates and more what smell reminded them of summer. My response: “thigerettes” (I had a bad lisp as a child).

Since moving to NYC, I’ve discovered a lot of new things in the past two weeks. I’ve learned that people here don’t stop at red lights and don’t always say hello. Yesterday afternoon, though, I discovered something so special that I decided I would use it as a topic for my first ever article in The Fordham Ram.

At the Arthur Ave Ferragosto Festival, I learned that one must be 21-years-old to purchase tobacco products in New York City. The city where a bagel and a cig is considered the breakfast of champions restricts tobacco sales to people under 21! Pretty crazy, huh? I thought so. Anyway, all I wanted was to buy a handmade cigar — but I was denied twice.

As much as I acknowledge the horrible side effects associated with tobacco (refer to paragraph one if you don’t believe me), I believe this law is an absolute abomination. I believe the age for tobacco purchases should be changed back to 18 years in NYC for three reasons. First, it is ineffective in preventing tobacco use.

Secondly, the legal age to purchase tobacco is 18 in every other part of New York State. Thirdly, a person is considered an adult at age 18 and therefore should be able to decide whether or not he or she wants to smoke darts (a slang term for cigarettes in Buffalo).
In general, prohibition is ineffective. It didn’t work for alcohol in 1930s, and it surely hasn’t stopped minors from consuming alcohol today. Walk outside to East Fordham Road and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

So, we should ban tobacco sales to those under 21, right? Wrong.

It’s really common sense. All that will result from this age increase is a greater desire to smoke cigarettes. If you don’t believe in common sense, refer to Professor Michael A. Nelson’s “Global Efforts to Combat Smoking,” which highlights five studies that prove that banning cigarette advertisements is an ineffective way to decrease the amount of cigarette sales in the international community.

In November 2013, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s bill, “Tobacco 21,” made New York City the largest city in the U.S to have an over-21 age restriction on tobacco. He also made New York City the only city in the state to implement such a measure. It is not fair to deny an 18-year-old foreigner, whose culture may root in tobacco, the inability to purchase it. Obviously, that 18-year-old will most likely find a way to get his or her hands on cigarettes; the age restriction will only burden him or her.

It is also not fair that I, a citizen of Buffalo, New York, can purchase tobacco products, but my roommate, who resides in Westchester, cannot. We’re in the same state!

Lastly, 18-year-olds are considered adult citizens in the U.S. It is absurd to think that someone who can serve our country and shoot a gun legally cannot buy dumpy cigars on Arthur Avenue. Either make the age of adulthood 21 or stop trying to limit what adults in America can and cannot legally do. Fine, take away our alcohol, whatever.

Just don’t take away the stoagies.