The Daily News reports:
Declaring Big Tobacco “public enemy number one,” Mayor de Blasio signed legislation to cut down on the number of places to buy cigarettes and hike the minimum price to $13 a pack Monday — with a goal of 160,000 fewer smokers by 2020.
“It’s very cynical. It’s all about greed,” de Blasio said at Kings County Hospital, where he signed the bills. “We have these major international corporations that clearly know better but to make a buck they’re looking to hook a whole new generation of young people on tobacco products and we have to stop them.”
The minimum price for a pack of cigarettes will jump from $10.50 to $13, the highest price floor for cigarettes in the nation, de Blasio said. While many retailers already charge that much or more for a pack, the average price in the city is $11.24, according to the health department. With brands forced to charge at least $13 for the cheapest pack, the department expects prices to raise for premium brands as well to maintain separation from lower-tier smokes, the department has said.
And tobacco products other than cigarettes will also jump in price thanks to a 10% tax that will go to public housing.
Pharmacies — including local shops as well as ubiquitous city chains like Duane Reade — will have to pull cigarettes off the shelf as the city bans the sale of smokes there.
“A place where you go for healthcare should not be selling you deadly products,” de Blasio said.
Over the next decade, New Yorkers can also expect that smokes will become harder to find in corner stores and bodegas, too — the legislation cuts in half the number of retailers licensed to sell tobacco, currently 9,000, over 10 years through attrition. The city currently has almost 30 tobacco retailers per square mile, Deputy Mayor Herminia Palacio said — meaning there are more places to buy tobacco in the city than there are Starbucks and pizzerias combined, de Blasio said.
The minimum price hike goes into effect June 1, 2018, and the pharmacy ban on January 1, 2019.
Some critics of the legislation — including a handful of council members who voted against it — have argued the burden will fall most hard on lower-income people, who are more likely to smoke and will be hit harder from the price increase. De Blasio deemed that a “painful reality,” but noted help quitting is available for free by calling 1-866-NYQUITS.