De Blasio Administration, City Council Members and Elected Officials Announce Sweeping Legislation to Curb Smoking, Tobacco Usage

April 19, 2017

Proposals will reduce number of smokers in NYC by 160,000

Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced a series of legislative proposals to reduce the number of smokers in New York City by 160,000 over the next three years. While smoking rates in New York City have declined from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 14.3 percent in 2015, the city still has more than 900,000 smokers, including 15,000 youth. There are also 174,000 adults and 42,000 adolescents using e-cigarettes. These new proposals will decrease smoking rates to a historically low rate of 12 percent.

The five bills will put New York City at the forefront of smoking and tobacco control nationally by: (1) raising the minimum prices for all tobacco products, including cigarettes, and imposing a new 10% local tax on other tobacco products; (2) reducing through attrition the number of tobacco retailers citywide; (3) creating a retail license for e-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; (5) and banning the sale of tobacco products at pharmacies.

The legislation was introduced by Council Members Corey Johnson, Brad Lander, Fernando Cabrera and Ritchie Torres, and the bills will be heard by the Health Committee on April 27, 2017.

“When it comes to New Yorker’s health, big tobacco is public enemy #1.  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. “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.”

"Tobacco continues to kill too many of our loved ones - especially those who suffer from anxiety and other mental illnesses," said First Lady Chirlane McCray. "Today, we're saying enough is enough and taking a preventive step towards protecting New Yorkers so they can thrive."

"These bills take on smoking and tobacco in a way that will both save lives and let people vote with their feet," said Dr. Herminia Palacio, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. "By giving New Yorkers healthier options - from where they shop to the buildings they live in - we will bring all of our City’s resources to bear so that we will all live longer and healthier lives." 

“As a former smoker, I know how hard it is to quit,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “These bills will make less it likely that New Yorkers will start smoking and easier for New Yorkers who smoke to quit, helping thousands of people lead longer, healthier lives. I’m proud that New York City will once again be at the forefront of tobacco control in the country.”

“Easy access to tobacco retailers makes it hard for smokers to quit and has contributed to the recent rise of NYC youth using cigars and smokeless tobacco,” said Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “By giving DCA the ability to license e-cigarettes and limit the number of retailers selling tobacco products, we can better enforce existing laws that help keep tobacco products out of the hands of minors and improve the health of all New Yorkers.”

Department of Finance Commissioner Jacques Jiha said, “DOF and the NYC Sheriff’s office are pleased to build upon the strong partnerships we have with DOHMH and DCA to combat the harmful effects of tobacco use on New Yorkers. We will continue to use every tool that we have to achieve this goal.”

Tobacco continues to be a leading contributor to preventable, premature death in New York City, killing an estimated 12,000 people annually. Despite an overall decline on smoking rates among young people, youth have increasingly used a range of other tobacco products. When combined, youth cigar, smokeless and hookah use exceed cigarette use. Nearly 9 out of 10 smokers first tried smoking before age 18. In the city, adolescent use of e-cigarettes is more than double the current smoking rate, 15.9% compared with 5.8%. This package of proposals will help all New Yorkers live healthier and longer lives by:

Advancing Public Health through Higher Minimum Prices on Tobacco

This bill (Int. 1544, Johnson) 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 other tobacco products, such as cigars, smokeless tobacco, 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 on other tobacco products for the first time, which is expected to generate revenue of $1 million annually dedicated for public housing.

Limiting Tobacco Retail Licenses

This bill (Int. 1547, Lander) 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 just over 8,200 licensed cigarette retailers citywide, averaging 30 dealers per square mile. Easy access to tobacco retailers makes it harder for smokers to quit. Moreover, youth who frequent retail stores every week have double the odds of trying smoking. Based on estimates from the Departments of Health and Consumer Affairs, ten years after implementation, this bill could achieve up to a 40 percent reduction in the number of tobacco licenses. Using community districts to reduce licenses 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.

Creating a Retail License for E-Cigarettes

This bill (Int. 1532, Cabrera) creates a separate license for the retail sale of e-cigarettes 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.

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 (which will be introduced by council member Torres on April 25) 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 an owner fails to disclose the policy, he/she may face a $100 civil penalty. Tenants would not be fined for smoking in non-smoking areas of buildings.

Disclosing a building’s smoking policy will help tenants to make an informed decision about whether or not they want to live in a building. This information may be especially important for parents with young children and for others, such as older adults, who may spend more time at home and consequently have higher exposures to secondhand smoke.

Pharmacy Ban

This bill (Intro 1131-A, Lander) prohibit pharmacies, or retail stores that contain pharmacies, from selling tobacco products, including cigarettes.  There are over 550 pharmacies in New York City licensed to sell tobacco products. Pharmacies are places of health and should not sell deadly consumer products.

These proposals build upon the de Blasio Administration’s current effort to curb tobacco usage and smoking. The Health Department has spent $14 million in the last three fiscal years on public awareness campaigns that support cessation efforts and provide nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) through the NYS Smokers’ Quitline. In 2016 alone, the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) issued more than 5,270 violations to ensure that current tobacco laws are being followed, and that tobacco and nicotine are not being sold to youth. While most licensees are in compliance, DCA revoked 434 licenses and suspended 271 licenses in 2016.

“Here in New York, we still lose far too many people each year to smoking related illness,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health. “We’ve made progress on bringing smoking rates down, but now is the time to move these efforts into overdrive. Too many kids and non-smokers are still being subjected to harmful second-hand smoke, and cigarettes can be purchased on virtually every corner. We need policies that reflect the extreme danger that smoking poses to the public. I’m proud to join with Mayor de Blasio and my colleagues in the Council to advance meaningful legislation that will help New Yorkers live healthier, longer, smoke-free lives.”

Council Member Ritchie Torres, Chair of Committee on Public Housing, stated: "By making clear what a building's smoking policy is potential tenants and current residents can be better informed about their living conditions, environment and health impact. Residents deserve to live in clean, smoke-free buildings, if they wish, and a disclosure policy can bring transparency that'll help residents make informed decisions," said Council Member Ritchie Torres of the Bronx.

“My bill, Intro 1532, requiring licensing of e-cigarette retail dealers, is a major step to limit the use of e-cigarettes, which are dangerous nicotine delivery systems that can lead to nicotine and potentially drug addiction,” stated Council Member Fernando Cabrera. “Local governments are restricting access to e-cigarettes as the dangers of ‘vaping’ are more widely recognized.   In the midst of an opioid addiction crisis, we must take leadership now to prevent more addiction. This is an important first step in protecting the health and safety of New Yorkers.”

“While we’ve made good progress toward reducing smoking in NYC, there’s still work to do,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “These bills will put NYC at the forefront of smoking and tobacco control efforts across the country by implementing what we know works best: price increases and limiting access in order to prevent New Yorkers from picking up that first cigarette. I want to thank the Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bassett for their leadership on this critical public health issue.” 

Council Member Costa Constantinides said, “This legislative package to reduce smoking will bring great benefits to New Yorkers’ public health.  These proposals including raising minimum prices, banning tobacco sale at pharmacies, and reducing the number of tobacco retailers will be a role model for others in the nation to follow.  Our city is working to prevent addiction and improve health.  Thank you to Mayor de Blasio as well as my colleagues Council Members Johnson, Lander, Cabrera, and Torres for their leadership on this important public health issue.”

Council Member Karen Koslowitz stated “As a former smoker, for many years, I fully understand the difficulties of stopping, and how healthy fully stopping is. I fully support this.”

"Vape stores are proliferating throughout our city, especially near our schools where children continue to be the tragets for early nicotine addiction. Parents complain every day about vape stores in front of their children's schools," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Thank you Mayor de Blasio for your leadership in protecting our city and its children from nicotine addiction, and protecting our public health."

“This package of bills is an incredible step forward towards curbing the number of smokers in New York City,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “It is imperative that we continue to take measures such as these that will improve public health and the environment around us, and I applaud Mayor de Blasio for his leadership in making New York a healthier, more livable city.”

"I'm proud that our City is taking a major step in protecting current and future generations from the dangers of tobacco and e-cigarette use. These policies will ensure that residents have the basic human right to breathe clean air, which every New Yorker deserves. I want to thank Mayor de Blasio and my colleagues in the City Council on supporting this package of tobacco bills that protect our health, our children and our world," says Council Member Donovan Richards.

“Smoking, e-cigarettes, and tobacco products kill and sicken millions of Americans every year. I am incredibly proud that our city is taking a bold step to save lives by standing up to Big Tobacco and imposing stricter regulations on their dangerous products. I commend my Council Colleagues on this important legislative package and thank Mayor de Blasio, DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas, and DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett for their commitment to protecting the health and safety of all of those live and work in our great City,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson.

“I applaud the Administration for taking a stand against a massive industry that has led to thousands of premature deaths across this city and country, and has targeted particularly low-income neighborhoods and communities of more color, ” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, Deputy Leader. “These bills will go a long way in curbing smoking by limiting access to tobacco products and raising minimum sale prices. If we can do more to keep smoking products out of the hands of people to save lives, we must absolutely do so. This move will also reduce health care costs, and improve the quality of life for countless people.”

“My stepfather died of lung cancer at 60 years old after a lifetime of smoking since his teen years, so I know firsthand how serious this issue is,” said Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. “For far too long, the tobacco industry has had free rein to employ shady tactics that put profits over the health and well-being of our people. Spending over $1 million an hour on marketing in the United States, the tobacco industry uses especially heinous and deceptive marketing to target and influence our children in an attempt to sway another generation into the addictive habit of smoking. With these new policies that reduce the availability of tobacco products, we fight back, improve health outcomes, and lead the nation.”

"I applaud Mayor de Blasio, my colleagues Council Members Johnson, Lander, Cabrera and Torres and anti-tobacco advocates for their committed efforts to combat smoking. The De Blasio Administration and City Council see eye-to-eye with a strong passion of wanting to save lives. This series of legislative proposals, when enacted, will alter the bad behavior of smoking among adults and deter new, unwanted behavior by our youth," said NYC Council Member Andy King, 12th District, Bronx.

"New York City is and should remain a leader in helping smokers quit and preventing our youth from picking up the dangerous habit. We are working to take major steps in this effort at the NYC Council and I applaud Mayor de Blasio for his support. It is no secret these products are marketed to our children, and we must do all we can to prevent this,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.

Councilmember King said, "I applaud Mayor de Blasio, my colleagues Council Members Johnson, Lander, Cabrera and Torres and anti-tobacco advocates for their committed efforts to combat smoking. The De Blasio Administration and City Council see eye-to-eye with a strong passion of wanting to save lives. This series of legislative proposals, when enacted, will alter the bad behavior of smoking among adults and deter new, unwanted behavior by our youth," said NYC Council Member Andy King, 12th District, Bronx."

"Smoking kills. We have an obligation to create a City that is safe for all New Yorkers, and that means ensuring a City that is free from deadly and dangerous tobacco and second-hand smoke,” stated Public Advocate Tish James. New York City has made great strides in reducing smoking rates and minimizing smoking in public places; this new legislative package will go even further in making our City healthier and safer for everyone."

“The tobacco industry has shortened too many lives, and it's the job of government to act prudently to reduce and control smoking and related health risks," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "Reducing access to cigarettes, requiring residential buildings to adopt and disclose smoking policies, and creating licensing requirements and regulations for e-cigarette retailers are smart steps whose time has come."

State Senator Brad Hoylman said: "New York City's efforts to regulate tobacco have been one of the public health success stories of the last decade. Mayor de Blasio's new legislation represents a bold new step in the effort to build a healthier city and keep kids from picking up the habit. I'm proud to join the administration in announcing this new package and encourage my colleagues in the City Council top pass these important reforms."

"By introducing this comprehensive legislative package, our City continues leading the national fight against smoking and tobacco use. These common sense measures are critical to protect the health of our communities from the unquestionable dangers associated with tobacco use and smoking," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. "As the Ranking Member of the Senate Health Committee, I am fully committed to working with our City's administration in an effort to safeguard our communities' public health."

By introducing this comprehensive legislative package, our City continues leading the national fight against smoking and tobacco use. These common sense measures are critical to protect the health of our communities from the unquestionable dangers associated with tobacco use and smoking," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. "As the Ranking Member of the Senate Health Committee, I am fully committed to working with our City's administration in an effort to safeguard our communities' public health."

“New York has made tremendous progress to encourage healthy tobacco-free communities, but we must do more,” said Assembly Member Dan Quart. “The use of tobacco products is the number one cause of preventable deaths in our country, disproportionately affecting some of our most vulnerable neighborhoods and populations. This package of legislation will address the oversaturation of tobacco accessibility, make New York a healthier place for our families and ultimately save lives.” 

"After working for years to protect New Yorkers against the scourge of tobacco and the dangers associated with electronic cigarettes, I am pleased to have a partner in the City and look forward to partnering on important measures to reduce smoking rates citywide and protect the public health," said Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal.

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