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Staff Editorial – New York City raises minimum age for tobacco purchases to 21, we should not follow suit

Submitted by Jacob Ellerbee on November 12, 2013 – 1:49 pmNo Comment

Lawmakers in New York City have decided to make it harder for young people to purchase tobacco products in New York City. The law, adopted by the New York City Council, with the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, says that you must be at least 21 years old to purchase tobacco products in New York City.

According to a report by the New York Times, the new law would affect the sale of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, cigars and cigarillos.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration web site, businesses should “only sell cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, and smokeless tobacco to anyone age 18 or older.”

In the footnotes, the FDA reminds retailers that they must follow state law, in addition to the federal law.

“Retailers must also follow state tobacco laws, even if they are more restrictive. For example, in some states the minimum age is 19.”

It would be very unwise for Arkansas — a state in which 27 percent of adults smoke, according to a report on, filed Nov. 2. — to get any ideas or inspiration from what New York City has done.

Although we’re essentially comparing a city to a state, New York City is an animal of its own, boasting a population of more than 8 million people, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The population of the entire state of Arkansas, according to the 2012 census, is 2.9 million.

In some cases, New York City is a trendsetter in terms of law making, giving other city governments and state governments ideas of future laws or policies to pursue.

It would be in the best interest of Arkansas, in terms of revenue, to not pursue a similar policy as that of New York City.

A large number of tobacco retailers have outposts in central Arkansas, where a majority of the state’s population resides.

Nearly one-fourth of all tobacco retailers in the state reside in the central part of Arkansas: Pulaski, Lonoke, White and Faulkner counties. These four counties are home to 21.3 percent of tobacco-selling retailers.

Tobacco sales generated $51.2 million dollars in gross tobacco revenue from July 2012 to June 2013, according to a report released by the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

And, according to a report filed by The City Wire, a website covering news and politics in Fort Smith and northwest Arkansas in May, tobacco tax generated $188.2 million for the state from July 2012-April 2013.

While we don’t have statistics on just 18 – 21 year olds purchasing tobacco products in Arkansas, we do have data for the consumers as a whole.

Young people in the United States – not just Arkansas – are mature enough and financially responsible enough to purchase tobacco products if they so choose.

Besides, if an 18 year old wants to consume tobacco, they will find a way. Cutting them off from legally purchasing them at a store would mean the state is losing out on tax dollars.

While lawmakers have good intentions with increasing the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products, they are foolishly turning away precious revenue.

An 18-year-old is considered a legal adult, so why should they be disallowed to purchase tobacco?

If they want to smoke a cigarette, that is their prerogative. Whoever is getting the money spent to acquire those cigarettes should be the government, not some middleman reselling them to an 18, 19 or 20 year old.

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