A bill has been proposed by the state of New York that would raise the minimum legal age for buying cigarettes from 18 to 21.

The proposal was introduced on Friday, and announced on Sunday by State Senator Diane Savino and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal at a news conference. “If I could prevent one kid, one kid from ever developing that habit, this legislation is worth it.” Savino said.

The proposed bill follows a proposal introduced by the New York City Council last week. The effort to raise the age to 21 was launched by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is supporting the statewide bill.

According to CBS New York, Quinn said to WCBS 880:

“When we introduced our bill last Monday and began talking about it, I knew New York was a leader in public health and I knew that what we do gets watched by the state and the nation. But I no idea that in less than a week’s time we would already see legislation introduced in Albany.

Our effort to raise the age to buy tobacco in New York City to 21 has spurred the state legislature to take the same steps. And Sen. Savino and Assembly member Rosenthal have introduced legislation to make the age to purchase tobacco in the entire state 21 years of age.”

Smoking between 18 and 20-year-olds could be lowered by 55% if the minimum age is raised to 21, Quinn explained.

Convenience stores that sell tobacco products to people under the age of 21 will be issued fines under the Council bill. Under the state bill, fines would also be issued and the store would lose its license to sell tobacco.

The oldest minimum legal age for buying cigarettes in the country would be New York if the bill is passed. Additionally, New York would become the first state to increase the minimum age to buy cigarettes to 21. The age has been raised to 19 in four states and in some communities, and at least two towns have agreed to raise the age to 21, The Garden Island reported.

Savino said “anything we can do to stop young people from starting is a step in the right direction.”

A hearing on the city’s proposal to increase the age from 18 to 21 is set to occur on May 2nd.

Quinn also said to WCBS 880:

“We know that 80 percent of life-long smokers start smoking before they are 20 years of age. We also know that most young people who get cigarettes get them from friends, relatives, cousins, etc. who are 18, 19 years of age. We can affect both of those things by raising this age and make sure we cut off a lifelong addiction.”

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), about 3,800 young people under 18 years of age in the United States smoke their first cigarette, and approximately 1,000 youths in that age group become daily cigarette smokers.

A recent study in the Journal of Adolescent Health showed that walking for 20 minutes a day can help teens quit smoking.

Smoking is responsible for several diseases, including heart disease, long-term respiratory disease, cancer, as well as premature death.

Smokers have a significantly increased risk of developing the following cancers:

A previous report demonstrated that smoking just a few cigarettes each day can more than double a woman’s risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Written by Sarah Glynn