City councilman said he wants Los Angeles to raise the legal age for buying cigarettes from 18 to 21. (29117)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — 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.

No major city has passed such a law. 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 town’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.

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.

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.