By Valerie Vande Panne
BOSTON (Reuters) - Boston could become the latest in a string of large U.S. cities to ban smoking and tobacco use by people under the age of 21 under a measure proposed on Wednesday by Mayor Marty Walsh.
The move to raise the minimum smoking age from 18 follows similar steps taken by some 90 U.S. cities and counties including New York. Hawaii in June became the first state to ban tobacco use by people under the age of 21.
"We know the consequences of tobacco use are real and can be devastating," Walsh said in a statement. "These proposed changes send a strong message that Boston takes the issue of preventing tobacco addiction seriously, and I hope that message is heard throughout Boston and across the entire country."
The proposal is subject to the approval of the city's Board of Health.
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Smoking has been on the decline among Boston teens, with just 7.9 percent reporting cigarette use in 2013, down from 15.3 percent in 2005, Walsh said. But use of e-cigarettes and inexpensive cigars has risen among teens over the past few years.
The proposed ban would apply to e-cigarettes, cigars, snuff and all other tobacco products.
Walsh, a recovered alcoholic, earlier this year banned the use of chewing tobacco in public spaces in Boston, including the historic Fenway Park ballpark. The ban also applies to professional ballplayers, both the Red Sox and visiting teams.
Walsh has also been one of the most outspoken Democratic opponents of proposed statewide ballot initiatives that would legalize recreational marijuana use in Massachusetts. Proponents of those measures aim to put them to a vote in November 2016.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Cynthia Osterman)