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Mayor de Blasio Signs Sweeping Legislation to Curb Smoking, Tobacco Usage

August 28, 2017

New laws will help reduce number of smokers in NYC by 160,000 by 2020

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today signed a series of bills to help reduce the number of smokers in New York City by 160,000 by 2020. 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. These new bills will help decrease the smoking prevalence to a historically low rate of 12 percent by 2020. 

These seven bills will put New York City at the forefront of smoking and tobacco control 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.

This package of legislation was introduced by Council Members Corey Johnson, Brad Lander, Fernando Cabrera, Ritchie Torres and James Vacca. The bills were heard by Mayor de Blasio on August 25, 2017. 

“Even though tobacco is a leading cause of premature death across the country, Big Tobacco will stop at nothing to hook people on these deadly products,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We are sending a loud and clear message that we will not let their greed kill any more New Yorkers without a fight. These new laws will not only help reduce the number of smokers in our City, but also save lives.”

“Tobacco kills thousands of New Yorkers each year and the Council is proud of the City’s role as a national leader in enacting smart, effective tobacco control policies that save lives," said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. "This package of bills will further strengthen our already tough tobacco laws in order to help decrease the number of smokers across the City.”

“I am excited to witness the impact these bills will have on the lives of New Yorkers," said Dr. Herminia Palacio, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. "These bills tackle smoking and tobacco in a comprehensive manner that will both save lives and reduce preventable diseases. In offering New Yorkers healthier options – from where they shop to the buildings they live in–we bring all of our City’s resources to bear so that we can all live longer and healthier lives."

“If you are a smoker, the single most important thing you can do for your health is to stop smoking,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “As a former smoker, I know how hard it is to quit. That’s why these laws are so important – they will make it easier for New Yorkers to quit smoking or never start.” 

"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 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.”

"We stand ready to enforce the law to deter criminal traffickers," said New York City Sheriff Joseph Fucito. "Our strategy includes regulatory inspection, criminal investigation, audit and civil forfeiture."

"With the Mayor's partnership, we are moving towards creating a safer, healthier City for public housing residents," said NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye. "Through this important legislation, we're not only going to decrease the number of smokers in New York City but also raise critical funds to support the future of NYCHA."

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. Youth cigar, cigarillo, little cigar, smokeless, and hookah use, together, 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 percent compared with 5.8 percent. This package of proposals will help all New Yorkers live healthier and longer lives by:

  1. Raising 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, snus, 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 of the minimum price on these other tobacco products for the first time, which is expected to generate revenue of $1 million annually dedicated for public housing.
  1. 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 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. Moreover, youth who frequent retail stores that sell tobacco every week have double the odds of trying smoking. Based on conservative Health and DCA estimates, ten years after implementation, this bill could achieve up to a 40 percent reduction in the number of tobacco retailers. Reducing licenses by community districts 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.

  1. Creating a Retail License for E-Cigarettes

    This bill (Int. 1532, Cabrera) requires retailers of e-cigarettes be issued a license, like cigarette retailers, 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.

    This bill will cap the number of e-cigarette retailers at half the current number by community district, with the reduction in number coming through attrition. Existing sellers will be able to continue to renew their license so long as they meet all applicable licensure requirements.

    It would also prohibit pharmacies from selling e-cigarettes.

  2. Increasing Cigarette License Fee

    This bill (Int. 1471, Johnson) will raise the biennial fee for the new tobacco retail dealer license that includes all types of tobacco sales to $200, from the $110 currently charged for a cigarette retail dealer license. There are currently 8,305 of these licenses in New York City.

  3. Instituting a Residential Smoking Disclosure Policy

    This bill (Int. 1585, Torres) 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 would not be required to adopt no-smoking policies. 

    Disclosure or prominent posting of a building’s policy on smoking will be required annually and any time a building changes its policy. An owner who fails to disclose the policy may face a $100 civil penalty. Tenants would not be fined by the City 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 might have higher exposures to secondhand smoke.

  4. Prohibiting Smoking in Building Common Areas

    This bill (Int. 484, Vacca) prohibits smoking and the use of electronic cigarettes in common areas in residential buildings with three or more units. These activities are already illegal in common areas in residential buildings with 10 or more units.

  5. Banning Tobacco Products in Pharmacies

    This bill (Int. 1131, Lander) prohibits 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. The prohibition would begin after these current licenses expire in 2018. Pharmacies are places of health and should not sell deadly consumer products.
    This legislation builds upon the de Blasio administration’s current effort 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 to provide Nicotine Replacement Therapy through the New York State Smokers’ Quitline. In 2016 alone, the Department of Consumer Affairs 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.

“New York City has made tremendous progress in curbing nicotine addiction, but we must do more to loosen Big Tobacco’s grip on people’s lives,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Health Committee. “This package of legislation, which includes my bills that strengthen the financial incentive to quit smoking and reduce the availability of cigarettes, will save thousands of lives. I’d like to thank Mayor de Blasio for consistently prioritizing the health of New Yorkers over the profits of corporations, Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett for acting as an exceptional partner in these efforts, and Speaker Mark-Viverito and my Council colleagues for the creative and encompassing solutions this legislation presents.”

“Today, NYC is making huge strides against the #1 cause of preventable death in New York City: smoking. I’m proud to stand alongside Mayor de Blasio, Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, Health Committee Chair Corey Johnson, and Council Members Torres, Gentile and Cabrera to reduce the number of smokers in NYC by 160,000 over the next three years,” said Council Member Brad Lander, Deputy Director of Policy at the Council. “Strong evidence shows that just being exposed to nearby tobacco retailers make kids twice as likely to smoke. That’s why I’m proud to sponsor Intro 1131 which will ban the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in pharmacies and Intro 1547which will reduce 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.”

Council Member Fernando Cabrera said, “We are seeing far more e-cigarettes sold in low income, minority neighborhoods than affluent communities and marketing that targets young people, who are more likely to choose e-cigarettes than other tobacco products.  The World Health Organization and American Heart Association have recommended stricter laws and regulations for e-cigarettes and the CDC and the Surgeon General have found that local licensing programs help prevent e-cigarette use by youths. We are taking bold action now to protect the health of New Yorkers, especially our youth.”

“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 the smoking disclosure law can bring transparency that'll help residents make informed decisions,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres.

“Currently, smoking is prohibited in the common areas of buildings with ten or more dwelling units. Yet, there are buildings throughout the five boroughs, particularly in the outer boroughs, that have fewer than ten dwelling units. As of now, the law fails to protect people living in these buildings from harmful second-hand smoke and this disparity is wrong,” said Council Member James Vacca. “This legislation addresses this imbalance, prohibiting smoking in common areas of all multiple dwelling units, regardless of size, thereby extending the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s power to enforce the ban in these buildings.”

Council Member Mathieu Eugene said, “I want to commend the Mayor and my colleagues in the City Council for the passing of this comprehensive tobacco legislation. We must do more to protect the health and wellbeing of our constituents and their families, and enacting laws that safeguard against the harmful effects of tobacco is an essential part of that process. It is my hope that we will continue to work together to make New York a healthier city for years to come.” 

Public Advocate Letitia James said, “Smoking kills. It's is a dangerous addiction and we must do everything in our power to help New Yorkers quit smoking and stop New Yorkers from starting in the first place. These laws will help improve the health of everyone in our City.”

“We need to do all that we can to change habits and save lives,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “I commend the Mayor as well as Council Members Cabrera, Johnson, Lander, Torres, and Vacca for their leadership on this important public health issue. Tobacco and smoking are leading contributors to many illnesses particularly lung cancer. These legislative proposals will target the heart of tobacco sales and usage, and will ensure that we can raise healthy children and families in Brooklyn.”
 "Curbing smoking means longer and healthier lives for more people. These actions by the City Council and Mayor de Blasio will encourage New Yorkers to stay smoke-free and make our city healthier for everyone," said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried.

"New York City has always led the world by example, and today Mayor de Blasio and the City Council are carrying the torch on strong life-saving tobacco control policies” said Jeff Seyler, Executive Vice President, Northeast Region of the American Lung Association. “These new laws will undoubtedly improve the health of City residents and help prevent another generation of youth from becoming addicted to these deadly products. Tobacco use remains a major public health issue, but thanks to the efforts of our elected officials here today it will endanger an even smaller percent of public than ever before.”

"NYC is a leader in tobacco control in the country and this sweeping legislation will limit exposure and availability of this deadly and addictive product," said Lisa David, President and CEO of Public Health Solutions. "We are proud to be a partner in the city’s tobacco control efforts, and expect these laws to encourage a continued decline in smoking, leading to a healthier, tobacco-free city."

“For far too long, tobacco has been both persistent and pervasive in some of our most vulnerable communities," said Deidre Sully, Director of NYC Smoke-Free. "We know that high tobacco use rates are linked to widespread availability of the product. This bold move will now save more lives and protect our youth from a lifetime of addiction.”

“As an advocate for the American Heart Association | American Stroke Association, I know the science that shows tobacco use is our leading preventable killer," stated Wendy Mono, a member of the American Heart Association New York City Advocacy Committee. "However, that knowledge alone couldn't save my family from the devastation of tobacco addiction. My parents started smoking in their early teens when the dangers of tobacco weren't known. Their health and quality of life seriously suffered due to smoking; my mother with lung cancer and my father with fatal heart disease. Our whole family was impacted by their smoking-related health issues. We applaud the vision of Mayor de Blasio, the many members of his administration and our champions in City Council, for passing these measures into law. New York City once again is leading the nation against the scourge of tobacco-related illnesses like heart disease and stroke."

"Thanks to these strong and innovative laws, New York City will again be a national leader in fighting tobacco use,” said Bill Lee, Executive Vice President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “We applaud Mayor de Blasio, the City Council and other public health advocates for providing strong leadership in the fight against tobacco. These measures signed into law today will build on the enormous progress New York City has made in reducing tobacco use. By increasing the price and reducing the availability of cigarettes and other tobacco products, they will prevent children from starting to use tobacco, encourage current tobacco users to quit and save lives.”

“New Yorkers can begin to breathe easier after the enactment of this historic package of measures,” said Michael Davoli, New York Metro Director of Government Relations, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “Mayor de Blasio and the City Council have heard the stories of those who have suffered because of the use of tobacco and have responded to an intense need to save lives and protect health. This is a major step toward Mayor de Blasio’s goal of cutting premature death by 25 percent by 2040, while dramatically reducing racial and ethnic disparities in mortality rates.”

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