New York: New York, where at least 20,000 teenagers in public high schools smoke, may become the first major city in the US to ban the sale of tobacco to anyone under the age of 21.
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has proposed a law that would raise the minimum age requirement to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.
"Too many adult smokers begin this deadly habit before age 21," said Quinn.
"By delaying our city`s children and young adults access to lethal tobacco products, we`re decreasing the likelihood they ever start smoking, and thus, creating a healthier city," Quinn said in a statement.
Most smokers in New York City started smoking before they turned 21, according to the city council.
Raising the legal purchase age to 21 would reduce the opportunities for young people to buy cigarettes themselves or to get them indirectly from older youth, it said.
"When used as intended, tobacco kills one-third of the people who use it," said NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr Thomas Farley.
"By raising the legal purchase age to 21, we will prevent a generation of New Yorkers from becoming addicted to smoking and ultimately save thousands of lives," Farley said.
Despite the City`s success in reducing tobacco use over the last decade, the youth smoking rate has remained flat at 8.5 per cent since 2007.
Twenty thousand public high school students currently smoke in New York City.
Two-thirds of New Yorkers favour raising the minimum age to purchase cigarettes from 18 to 21, with 69 per cent of non-smokers and 60 per cent of smokers supporting this policy, the city council said.
Several towns in the US have raised the tobacco purchase age to 21, including Needham in 2005 and Canton earlier this month.