Tobacco-free pharmacies are part of Mayor de Blasio’s historic efforts to reduce smoking
Tobacco use causes 12,000 deaths each year in New York City
December 27, 2018 — Today, the Health Department announced a milestone in the City’s efforts to reduce the rate of smoking: in January, cigarettes and other tobacco products will be prohibited from being sold in all New York City pharmacies, including supermarkets and big-box stores with a pharmacy section. E-cigarette sales were banned in pharmacies last August, when the City’s new e-cigarette retail license went into effect. Both policies are part of a package of legislation signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio in August 2017. Tobacco use remains a leading cause of preventable death, causing an estimated 12,000 deaths in New York City each year. Despite declines in the smoking rate, there are still more than 860,000 adults and 13,000 youth who smoke in New York City. Tobacco use can cause stroke, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, vascular disease, and more than 10 types of cancer. CVS Pharmacy and several independent pharmacies have already voluntarily stopped selling tobacco products. About 500 pharmacies still sell tobacco products.
Selling cigarettes or tobacco products without a valid New York City tobacco retail dealer license is a misdemeanor and is subject to civil penalties. Enforcement will begin in January. Selling cigarettes or tobacco products without a valid New York City license two times in three years can result in temporary store closure.
“Tobacco use remains one of the leading causes of preventable death in New York City, and reducing its availability is key to protecting the health of New Yorkers,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio. “People trust pharmacies to help them stay well — they should be helping smokers quit, not the opposite. I’m excited to see the impact that this regulation will have on the health of New Yorkers.”
“Tobacco kills thousands of New Yorkers every year,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “The tobacco-free pharmacy law is a public health victory. It builds on New York City’s commitment to reduce the number of smokers in our city so New Yorkers can live longer, healthier lives.”
“Thriving communities are what drives DCA in our mission to protect New Yorkers by creating a culture of compliance,” said Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “By limiting the number of retailers selling tobacco products, we can help keep tobacco products out of the hands of minors and improve the health of all New Yorkers.”
“Pharmacies should be places that promote health in our community, not places that sell cigarettes and other dangerous tobacco products,” said Deputy Commissioner Dr. Sonia Angell. “By removing tobacco products from pharmacy shelves, this law will contribute to making our neighborhoods healthier places to live, work and play.”
“On January 1, NYC will make huge strides against the #1 cause of preventable death in New York City: smoking,” said Council Member Brad Lander, Deputy Leader for Policy. “Strong evidence shows that just being exposed to nearby tobacco retailers make kids twice as likely to smoke. That’s why I’m thrilled the Mayor signed into law two bills I sponsored, Intro 1131, which bans the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in pharmacies, and Intro 1547, which reduces the number of cigarette retailers citywide by half — while ensuring NYC’s existing bodegas and small businesses operating in compliance with the law can keep their doors open. I’m grateful that this legislation will go into effect beginning in 2019, and is predicted to reduce the number of smokers in NYC by 160,000 over the next three years. Big thanks to Mayor de Blasio, Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, former Council Member Gentile, and Council Members Torres and Cabrera for their critical work to help reduce smoking in NYC.”
Banning the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies is just one part of New York City’s comprehensive approach to reducing the retail availability of tobacco. In August 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a package of bills into law to reduce tobacco use, which also included raising the minimum prices for all tobacco products; capping the number of tobacco retailers citywide; creating a retail license for e-cigarettes that was not open to pharmacies, effectively banning e-cigarettes from pharmacies; capping the number of e-cigarette retailers; and promoting smoke-free spaces in residential settings.
Tips to make quitting easier:
Using cessation medications, such as nicotine patches and lozenges, can double the chances of quitting successfully. Medicaid covers a range of cessation medications, making them free or low-cost, as do most private plans. To get a free starter kit of quit-smoking medications or talk to a quit coach, visit nysmokefree.com or call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487).
For more information visit nyc.gov/nycquits.
MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Stephanie Buhle, (347) 396-4177