NYC mayor backs proposal to raise cigarette prices

In an effort to cut down the number of NYC smokers by 160,000 within the next three years, Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced legislation Wednesday afternoon that would raise the minimum price on a pack of cigarettes from $10.50 to $13 - "the highest price floor in the nation", the mayor said.

Mayor de Blasio's announcement comes just two days after the American Cancer Society released a report, showing NY was "oversaturated with tobacco merchants", some 9,000 sellers across the five boroughs. Currently, the minimum is $10.50.

The proposed tax hike is meant to reduce the number of smokers in New York City by 160,000 over the next three years.

While smoking rates are going down, there are still an estimated 900,000 smokers in the city. "These companies have used the same playbook for decades, and we can no longer sit by while the next generation becomes addicted".

Other measures that were proposed to the council on Wednesday include a ban on selling tobacco at pharmacies across the city, stricter regulations on e-cigarettes and a new "smoking disclosure policy", which will require residential building owners to disclose whether or not smoking is permitted in their units.

"New York in particular, I mean, people have just grown accustomed to the insane prices they are already are at", Ali said.

Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said about 14.3 percent of New Yorkers are smokers and these measures would reduce the number to 12 percent.

According to a representative of the American Cancer Society interviewed by the New York Times after the study was released, those in the less than $30,000 per year income bracket paid 39 percent of all city and state taxes on cigarettes.

One of the bills would also make it illegal for 550 pharmacies and stores that contain retail pharmacies to sell tobacco products.

The City Council Health Committee is expected to have a hearing on the legislation on April 27.

  • Joanne Flowers