New York push to raise tobacco purchase age

The city council is to vote on the proposal on 2 May. Backing it is its speaker, Christine Quinn, who is running for mayor.

All it needs for passage is a simple majority. A spokesman for Ms Quinn said she was confident it would get the green light.

"Too many adult smokers begin this deadly habit before age 21," said Ms Quinn in a statement.

"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."

New York is already strict about tobacco. As in many US cities, smoking is banned in bars and restaurants and parks, but in New York it is forbidden even on beaches. Cigarette taxes are the highest in the country.

City hall said that in 10 years the percentage of adult smokers had gone from 21.5% in 2002 to 14.8% in 2011. But among young people it has remained unchanged since 2007, at 8.5%.