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LA Councilman Looking To Change Legal Age For Buying Cigarettes

LA Councilman Looking To Change Legal Age For Buying Cigarettes

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A city councilman said today he wants Los Angeles to  raise the legal age for buying cigarettes from 18 to 21.

About 90 percent of life-long smokers start before they turn 21, and  under-age high school students are more likely to get cigarettes from 18-year- olds than from 21-year-olds, according to a motion introduced by Councilman  Paul Koretz.

``The social sources of cigarettes for young smokers are often  individuals who are just over the legal age of 18, with a majority of those  purchasing cigarettes for minors being between 18 to 20 years old,'' the motion  says.

If approved by the council, the motion would instruct the city attorney  and the chief legislative analyst to draft an ordinance raising the legal  purchasing age to 21 in the city.

An official for Altria Group, parent company of the Philip Morris USA  tobacco company, declined to comment on Koretz's motion.

``Traditionally, (Altria Group) hasn't been involved in such local  ordinances,'' said Steve Duschene, the company's spokesman.

No major U.S. city has passed such a law raising the purchasing age for  cigarettes. The states of New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Texas are  considering ordinances to set the legal age at 21. Needham, Mass., passed a so- called ``Tobacco to 21'' law in 2005, and according to Koretz, the rate of  smoking among the city's high school students fell from 13 percent to 5.5  percent over a six-year period.

``It is important for Los Angeles to enact such a law, to reduce the  number of young people who take up the habit of smoking, and the massive  societal costs associated with addiction to tobacco,'' according to the motion.

The motion, seconded by Councilman Mike Bonin, is expected to go before  the City Council's Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River Committee and the  Public Safety Committee.

Koretz attempted to pass a statewide law in 2002 when he was a member of  the Assembly. That bill was scuttled due to lobbying by the tobacco industry,  according to Koretz's office.

 

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