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Mayor de Blasio Celebrates Ban on Tobacco Products in Pharmacies

January 7, 2019

Tobacco-free pharmacies are part of de Blasio Administration’s historic efforts to reduce tobacco use and improve health of New Yorkers

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio and Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot today celebrated a milestone in the City’s efforts to reduce the rate of smoking: New York City pharmacies – including supermarkets and big-box stores with a pharmacy section – are now prohibited from selling cigarettes and other tobacco products. The ban took effect on January 1 of this year.

“In New York City, tobacco products are public enemy number one, taking thousands of lives each year,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “With this ban, our city takes another step toward becoming the fairest and healthiest big city in America.”

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.

“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 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.

“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.”

Selling cigarettes or tobacco products without a valid New York City tobacco retail dealer license is a misdemeanor and is subject to civil penalties. Selling cigarettes or tobacco products without a valid New York City license two times in three years can result in temporary store closure.

“By banning the sale of tobacco products in our City’s pharmacies, this administration is taking another significant step in its fight to reduce smoking and smoking-related illnesses among New Yorkers,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair of the Senate Health Committee. “Three of my bills signed into law have created smoke-free zones around public spaces, such as schools and libraries, but we need to do more. We will continue to pursue every avenue available to ensure New Yorkers have the safe and healthy environments they deserve.”

“Roughly 1 in 10 Walgreen pharmacy tobacco sales were made to a minor between 2012 and 2017. The tobacco-free pharmacy law will curb this dangerous trend and keep tobacco products out of the hands of minors. I’m proud to support legislation (S.5433) that would enact this ban across the state of New York, and commend Mayor de Blasio and Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot for their work to build a healthier city,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman.

“By banning the sale of tobacco in pharmacies we are removing one of the greatest threats to public health from a place where New Yorkers routinely go for medicine and healthcare,” said Council Member Mark Levine, Chair of the Committee on Health. “It is imperative that we continue to take measures such as this that will improve public health, and I'm grateful to Mayor de Blasio for taking action in making New York a healthier, more livable city.”

“On January 1, NYC made 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 makes kids twice as likely to smoke. That’s why I’m thrilled the Mayor signed into law legislation 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. These efforts are 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.”

“The Mayor’s office ban on tobacco product sales in pharmacies is another important step in the long fight against smoking and tobacco use in New York City,” said Lisa David, president and CEO of Public Health Solutions. “Through our NYC Smoke-Free program, we see a disproportionate increase in smoking in the city’s most vulnerable communities, and reducing tobacco retail outlets will make a difference in building smoke-free environments and reducing health disparities.  This policy change will also help us tackle the rise in addictive e-cigarette use, particularly among youth, that is now burgeoning into a major public health issue.”  
“As a daughter who saw her father’s life shortened due to smoking-related illness, I applaud New York City’s efforts to end the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies,” said Wendy Mono, member of the American Heart Association NYC Advocacy Committee. “Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Smoking and tobacco use put you at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. While the smoking rate among New York City residents has dropped significantly in recent years, the Association will continue to support these and all efforts to curb our city’s addiction to tobacco entirely.”

“The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids applauds New York City for taking bold action to further drive down tobacco use. By prohibiting tobacco sales in pharmacies, New York will reduce the availability of harmful and addictive tobacco products, send the right message to kids and support smokers trying to quit. New York rightly recognizes that the No. 1 cause of preventable death has no business being sold in places that promote health,” said Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for a Tobacco-Free Kids.

“This new law once again shows that New York City is a leader in addressing the major health risks associated with tobacco use,” said Michael Davoli, New York Metro Director, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “By reducing the availability of tobacco in neighborhoods across the city we will further drive down smoking rates and ultimately save lives. Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Johnson and the City Council deserve high praise for their commitment to improving public health.”

“New Yorkers visit pharmacies to improve their health.  As a major link in the healthcare chain, pharmacies are simply the wrong place to sell tobacco products that kill up to half of its users when consumers use them as directed. We applaud New York City for implementing Tobacco-Free Pharmacies and call on the state to follow suit,” said Michael Seilback, National Assistant Vice President for State Public Policy, American Lung Association

The Health Department offers a number of tools to support smokers who want to quit. Visit and search “NYC Quits” to find tips on how to stop smoking. New Yorkers can also call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) or visit to get a free starter kit of quit-smoking medications or talk to a quit coach.

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