New York City

Mayor Wants Cost of Cigarettes in NYC to Be Highest in Nation

New York City's smoking rate has dropped from 22 to 14 percent since 2002

Mayor Bill de Blasio want to raise the floor on the cost of a pack of cigarettes in New York City to $13, which would make it the highest in the country.

The current floor price on a pack of cigarettes in the city is $10.50.

De Blasio says the city already has a record-low percentage of smokers, 14 percent. But he wants to further cut the number of smokers in the city by 160,000 by 2020, he said Wednesday. An estimated 900,000 New York city residents currently smoke. 

"In a way of too many addictive challenges, how supremely addictive this chemical is and what it does to people -- we have to treat it aggressively," he said during the news conference at the American Heart Association's office in midtown. 

City and state taxes on a pack of cigarettes already total $5.85, making it the highest in the country.

The proposals are set for hearings later this month.

The city council also will consider legislation to gradually reduce by half the number of licenses issued to retailers to sell tobacco products. Philadelphia and San Francisco have similar licensing restrictions.

An American Cancer Society study found that 8,992 retail outlets were licensed to sell tobacco in New York as of October, and about a third of those were within 500 feet of a school.

Other proposals would set minimum prices and create taxes on smokeless tobacco and small cigars, and require sellers of electronic cigarettes to obtain licenses.

De Blasios' predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, began the charge to stub out smoking in the city in 2002, when the smoking rate was 22 percent. During his 12 years in office, the city imposed the nation's highest cigarette taxes; banned smoking in bars, parks and even beaches; and voted to raise the minimum tobacco-buying age to 21. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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