New York

Mayor de Blasio Signs 7 New Bills Aimed to Curb Smoking, Tobacco Use in NYC

The bills tackle a number of issues ranging from raising the minimum prices on tobacco to banning the sale of e-cigarettes in pharmacies

What to Know

  • The series of bills Mayor de Blasio signed Monday are intended to help reduce the number of NYC smokers by 160,000 by 2020
  • While smoking rates in NYC have declined from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 14.3 percent in 2015, the city still has more than 900,000 smokers
  • The bills tackle a number of issues ranging from raising the minimum prices on tobacco to banning tobacco products in pharmacies

Mayor de Blasio signed a sweeping series of anti-smoking bills Monday as part of a comprehensive effort to help reduce the number of smokers in the city by nearly 200,000 over the next few years. 

Nearly a million of people in the city still smoke, despite steady declines in smoking rates between 2002 and 2015, according to the health department.

Speaking on Monday, de Blasio said he'd seen first-hand the impact smoking had on a family.

"My dad smoked a lot," he said. "It had a horrible impact on his health. I have two older brothers, none of us has ever smoked a cigarette. I have literally never put a cigarette to my lips and I never will."

The seven bills, part of a package introduced by Council Members Corey Johnson, Brad Lander, Fernando Cabrera, Ritchie Torres and James Vacca, all Democrats, tackle a number of issues ranging from raising the minimum prices on tobacco to banning tobacco products in pharmacies.

Johnson also has a personal perspective on the bills.

"As someone who struggles personally with nicotine addiction I know the first hand grip this substance can have on our lives," he said.

Here's a detailed look at the new measures as provided by the city:  

1. Raising Minimum Prices on Tobacco 

This bill raises the minimum price of cigarettes and little cigars from $10.50 to $13 a pack and sets a first-ever price floor and tax for other tobacco products, such as cigars, smokeless tobacco, snus, loose tobacco and tobacco-containing shisha. Increasing the cigarette price floor to $13 is projected to lead to a 6.4 percent decline in adult cigarette smoking, decreasing adult prevalence from 14.3 percent to 13.9 percent. The bill also imposes a tax of 10 percent of the minimum price on these other tobacco products, which is expected to generate revenue of $1 million annually dedicated for public housing. 

2. Limiting Tobacco Retail Licenses 

This measure will reduce the number of stores that can sell tobacco products by capping 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. 

New York City has high tobacco retail density, with about 8,300 licensed cigarette retailers’ citywide, averaging almost 30 dealers per square mile. Easy access to tobacco retailers makes it harder for smokers to quit, officials say. Based on conservative Health and DCA estimates, 10 years after implementation, this bill could achieve up to a 40 percent reduction in the number of tobacco retailers. Reducing licenses by community districts will decrease density and promote health in neighborhoods citywide. 

The bill also updates the New York 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. 

3. Creating a Retail License for E-Cigarettes 

This bill requires retailers of e-cigarettes be issued a license, like cigarette retailers, and caps the number of these licenses. E-cigarette use has increased dramatically since e-cigarettes were introduced in U.S. markets less than 10 years ago. In 2015, 15.9 percent of New York City high school students were e-cigarette users, according to the health department. 

This measure will cap the number of e-cigarette retailers at half the current number by community district, with the reduction in number coming through attrition. Existing sellers will be able to continue to renew their license so long as they meet all applicable licensure requirements. 

It would also prohibit pharmacies from selling e-cigarettes. 

4. Increasing Cigarette License Fee 

This bill will raise the biennial fee for the new tobacco retail dealer license that includes all types of tobacco sales to $200, from the $110 currently charged for a cigarette retail dealer license. There are currently 8,305 of these licenses in New York City. 

5. Instituting a Residential Smoking Disclosure Policy 

This measure 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, condos and cooperatives. Buildings would not be required to adopt no-smoking policies. 

Disclosure or prominent posting of a building’s policy on smoking will be required annually and any time a building changes its policy. An owner who fails to disclose the policy may face a $100 civil penalty. Tenants would not be fined by the city for smoking in non-smoking areas of buildings. 

6. Prohibiting Smoking in Building Common Areas 

This bill prohibits smoking and the use of electronic cigarettes in common areas in residential buildings with three or more units. It expands current law that prohibits these activities in residential buildings with more than 10 units. 

7. Banning Tobacco Products in Pharmacies 

This measure 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. The prohibition would begin after these current licenses expire in 2018.

"Pharmacies are places of health and should not sell deadly consumer products," the mayor's office said in announcing the series of bill signings.

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