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New York City Puts Tobacco Use on Legislative Agenda

NEW YORK — Local legislators will review a series of tobacco measures, including raising the minimum prices for all tobacco products.

The goal of the five proposals, is to reduce the number of smokers in the city by 160,000 over the next three years. The legislation package was introduced by council members Corey Johnson, Brad Lander, Fernando Cabrera and Ritchie Torres — who were joined by Mayor Bill de Blasio — on April 19.

According to the mayor's office, the measures will put the city "at the forefront of smoking and tobacco control nationally." The proposals are:

  1. Raising the minimum prices for all tobacco products, including cigarettes, and imposing a new 10-percent local tax on other tobacco products (OTP); 
  2. Reducing through attrition the number of tobacco retailers citywide; 
  3. Creating a retail license for electronic cigarettes, and capping the number of e-cigarette retailers; 
  4. Requiring all residential buildings to create a smoking policy and disclosing it to both current and prospective tenants; and 
  5. Banning the sale of tobacco products at pharmacies.

The bills will be heard by the Health Committee on April 27.

"When it comes to New Yorker's health, big tobacco is public enemy No. 1. These companies have used the same playbook for decades, and we can no longer sit by while the next generation becomes addicted," de Blasio said. "Today, we are taking a stand against these companies to not only reduce smoking and tobacco usage in New York City, but also save lives."


Higher Minimum Prices on Tobacco

This bill raises the minimum price of cigarettes and little cigars to $13 a pack from $10.50 and sets a first-ever price floor and tax for OTP, such as cigars, smokeless tobacco, loose tobacco and tobacco-containing shisha. The bill also imposes a tax of 10-percent on OTP for the first time, which is expected to generate revenue of $1 million annually dedicated for public housing.

Limiting Tobacco Retail Licenses

This bill will cap the tobacco retail dealer licenses in each community district at 50 percent of the current number of licenses. No new tobacco retail dealer licenses will be issued in a community district until its total decreases through attrition below the cap. No current tobacco retail dealers will lose their license as a result of this proposal.

It also updates the city retail license for selling cigarettes to encompass all types of tobacco. These changes will improve enforcement of existing laws, including the minimum legal sale age of 21 for tobacco.

Creating a Retail License for E-Cigarettes

This bill creates a separate license for the retail sale of e-cigarettes and caps the number of these licenses. E-cigarette retailers may apply for the new license during an open enrollment period; qualified applicants will demonstrate they were already selling e-cigarettes at the time the bill is voted into law, allowing retailers that currently sell e-cigarettes to continue operating. 

After the open enrollment period for e-cigarette licenses expires, no new licenses will be issued.

Smoking Disclosure Policy

This bill requires owners of residential buildings to create a policy on smoking and disclose it to both current and prospective residents. All residential buildings with three or more units will be covered, including rentals, condominiums and cooperatives. Buildings will not be required to adopt complete no-smoking policies. 

Disclosure of a building's policy on smoking will be required annually and if a building changes its policy at any time. If owners fails to disclose the policy, they may face a $100 civil penalty. Tenants would not be fined for smoking in non-smoking areas of buildings.

Pharmacy Ban

This bill prohibits pharmacies, or retail stores that contain pharmacies, from selling tobacco products, including cigarettes. There are more than 550 pharmacies in New York City licensed to sell tobacco products. 

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