FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friday, September 29, 2017
Abigail Lootens / Christine Gianakis
Department of Consumer Affairs
(212) 436-0042 firstname.lastname@example.org
City Hall in Your Borough: Department of Consumer Affairs Temporarily Closes Four Manhattan Stores for Illegally Selling Tobacco Products
NEW YORK, NY–Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Lorelei Salas today announced the temporary closing of four Manhattan businesses – 602 Washington Heights Deli Corp (602 West 180th Street), Brooklyn Deli & Cigar King Corp (288 8th Avenue), Inwood Convenience Store Inc. (630 West 207th Street), and Sham’s Grocery Corp (132 East 125th Street), – for illegally selling tobacco products. After repeated violations of the law in the last year, including selling tobacco products to individuals under the age of 21, selling flavored tobacco products, selling loosies, selling under the price floor, and selling without a DCA license, these businesses will be closed for five days. This tobacco enforcement announcement is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s initiative to reduce the number of smokers in New York City by 160,000 over the next three years and his commitment to aggressively enforce the laws related to the sale of tobacco. The announcement was made as part of City Hall in Your Borough: Manhattan.
“This enforcement action sends a strong message to all tobacco retailers – the City is unwavering in its commitment to crack down on egregious offenders,” said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “As a leading contributor to preventable premature death in New York City, it is more important than ever that we keep tobacco products out of the hands of minors. DCA will continue to enforce existing tobacco laws, as well as the new laws that expand our licensing and regulatory authority over the industry to better protect New Yorkers.”
“Our laws are only as strong as their enforcement,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “The Department of Consumer Affairs plays a key role in keeping tobacco out of the hands of young New Yorkers and enforcing the minimum price for tobacco, an effective tool to curb tobacco use. I thank DCA Commissioner Salas and her team for their work to keep New Yorkers healthy.”
"Legislation, no matter how strongly worded, can do nothing without the power of enforcement,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Health Committee. “DCA’s excellent work in this case shows that the City is going to strive to reduce the level of tobacco use in New York on all fronts. I’d like to thank Mayor de Blasio for his leadership on this issue and Commissioner Salas and her team at DCA for a job well done.”
“The Department of Consumer Affairs is on the front lines of addressing the #1 cause of preventable death in New York City: smoking,” said Council Member Brad Lander, Deputy Leader for Policy at the Council. “With DCA’s leadership and strong enforcement of the laws the Council and Mayor de Blasio passed earlier this year to raise the price of tobacco, cap and reduce the number of tobacco retailers citywide, and ban the sale of tobacco in pharmacies, we will reduce the number of smokers in NYC by 160,000 in the next three years. I commend Commissioner Salas for cracking down on these egregious violations and for DCA’s commitment to ensuring retailers are acting responsibly and in compliance with the law.”
“Tobacco and e-cigarette retailers who ignore the law by selling these products to minors are being given a clear message: we will shut you down,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera. “Far more e-cigarettes are sold in low income, minority neighborhoods than affluent communities, targeting young people, who are more likely to choose e-cigarettes than other tobacco products. We are taking bold action to protect the health of our youth. I encourage the Department of Consumer Affairs to aggressively pursue businesses which violate this law.”
“Mitigating public health risks is a priority for this City Council,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres. “We must be vigilant in assessing the role that businesses play in contributing to these risks, and respond to non-compliance accordingly. I believe that the recently passed package of tobacco laws will better equip New York City government and the public to continue to address the dangers of tobacco smoke on a greater scale.”
After repeated violations of tobacco laws, three of the four businesses had their cigarette retail dealer licenses revoked but continued to sell cigarettes without a license or violated other tobacco laws. These businesses entered into settlement agreements to resolve their violations. The agreements included a temporary sealing. The fourth business—Brooklyn Deli & Cigar King Corp—has never had a DCA license and has received five violations for unlicensed activity. Under Title 20 of the Administrative Code, DCA is authorized to temporarily close the business for its repeated violations of the law.
The Tobacco 21 Law (Local Law 94), which became effective May 18, 2014, prohibits retailers from selling cigarettes, e-cigarettes and tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. The Sensible Tobacco Enforcement Law (Local Law 97), which became effective March 19, 2014, established price floors, banned discounts and imposed packaging requirements on cigarettes and other tobacco products. Under these and other agency laws, DCA is authorized to temporarily close any business that operates without a cigarette retail dealer license twice in three years or has committed any of the following violations three times within three years: selling cigarettes, tobacco products, or e-cigarettes to a person under 21, selling flavored tobacco products, selling unpackaged tobacco products, or allowing a minor to sell or handle tobacco products.
DCA inspectors routinely inspect cigarette retailers to check for issues related to licensing, signage, sales to young adults under 21, and other related compliance issues. DCA’s effective Youth Tobacco Enforcement Program pairs inspectors and undercover young adults to ensure businesses do not sell tobacco products to anyone underage. In 2016 the 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. DCA is committed to educating businesses in order to ensure they know how to comply with the law. Businesses can find information for Cigarette Retail Dealers
and the inspection checklist
so that businesses know what DCA inspectors look for during an inspection. DCA encourages consumers who witness any violations by cigarette retail dealers to file a complaint by visiting nyc.gov/dca
or contacting 311.
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 in cigarette smoking rates among young people, youth are increasingly using a range of other tobacco products. Youth cigar, cigarillo, little cigar, smokeless, and hookah use, together, exceed cigarette use. In the city, adolescent use of e-cigarettes is more than double the current smoking rate, 15.9 percent compared with 5.8 percent. Nearly 9 out of 10 smokers first tried smoking before age 18. Enforcement efforts like this coupled with stronger laws like those recently signed by Mayor de Blasio will help to reduce the number of smokers in New York City.
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. On August 28, 2017, Mayor de Blasio signed a package of legislation aimed at decreasing smoking rates by (1) raising the minimum prices for all tobacco products, including cigarettes, and imposing a new 10 percent local tax on tobacco products other than cigarettes; (2) capping and 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) increasing the fee for a cigarette retail dealer license; (5) requiring all residential buildings to create a smoking policy and disclosing it to both current and prospective tenants; (6) prohibiting smoking and the use of e-cigarettes in common areas in multiple dwellings with fewer than ten units; and (7) banning the sale of tobacco products at pharmacies. These bills were introduced by Council Members Corey Johnson, Brad Lander, Fernando Cabrera and Ritchie Torres. DCA and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will soon begin educate and outreach about the requirements under these new laws.
The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCA licenses more than 81,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCA protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCA empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCA also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCA and its work, call 311 or visit DCA at nyc.gov/dca or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.