$13 a pack? NYC mayor wants highest cigarette prices in US

The assorted legislation aims to reduce the number of smokers in the city by 160,000 in three years through measures including a ban from selling cigarettes in pharmacies, a price hike, lowering the number of bodegas that can sell cigarettes and regulating e-cigarette sales, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The proposed bills from de Blasio advocates that the base price for any tobacco product be raised. The Tax Foundation reportedly found that 55.5 percent of cigarettes smoked in NY in 2014 were purchased from people selling loose cigarettes (loosies).

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Increasing the minimum price of cigarette packs to $13. "These companies have used the same playbook for decades, and we can no longer sit by while the next generation becomes addicted", said Mayor Bill de Blasio during a Wednesday press conference. The bill caps the amount of licenses to sell tobacco products in every community district at 50 percent of the current number of licensed dealers, with no new licenses given out in a district until the number drops below the target number.

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Currently, there are 8,200 licensed cigarette retailers citywide, which could be reduced by 40 percent in 10 years through not granting new licenses once a bodega closes.

There are now about 900,000 smokers in New York City, according to the mayor's office. In 2014, Eric Garner was killed when NY police officers placed him in a chokehold while trying to arrest him for selling loosies.

One of the bills that will be introduced to the City Council next week will raise the price floor on cigarette and small cigar packs, and introduce one for other tobacco products sold in the city. "This is an important first step in protecting the health and safety of New Yorkers". According to a report by the Royal College of Physicians which synthesized current knowledge, "the hazard to health arising from long-term vapour inhalation from the e-cigarettes available today is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco".

  • Rita Burton