The bill would also increase penalties for retailers who evade tobacco taxes or sell tobacco without a license.
According to city statistics, nearly half of the cigarette retailers inspected by the city over the past year and a half were found to be selling unstamped or untaxed products.
The Sensible Tobacco Enforcement bill includes the following provisions:
- Increasing penalties for retailers who evade tobacco taxes or sell tobacco without a license.
- Prohibiting retailers from redeeming coupons or honoring other price discounts for tobacco products.
- Creating a minimum price for cigarettes and little cigars, which are virtually identical to cigarettes, at $10.50 per pack.
- Requiring that cheap cigars and cigarillos be sold in packages of at least 4, and little cigars be sold in packages of at least 20. Cigars that cost more than $3 each are exempt from the packaging rule.
“We have made tremendous strides in combating smoking in New York City but this leading killer still threatens the health of our children,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “New York City’s comprehensive smoking prevention program has led to a decrease in the smoking rate in adults from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 14.8 percent in 2011. However, smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in New Yorkers, killing thousands per year, and youth smoking rates have remained flat at 8.5 percent since 2007. These two bills are logical, important next steps to further protect our teens from tobacco.”
According to city statistics, about 7,000 people die from smoking-related illnesses every year.
Not everyone supports the proposed legislation.
The New York Association of Grocery Stores issued the following statement Monday:
“Earlier today New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reminded residents that his tyrannical ‘public health’ initiative will continue to persist. Having been recently denied the authority to dictate dietary decisions for New York City soda consumers, Bloomberg has momentarily turned his attention to tobacco. With the introduction of his ‘Tobacco Product Display Restriction’ bill Bloomberg is hoping to not only change the rules here in New York City, but pioneer regulations that have never before existed in the United States.
“If passed, the Mayor’s legislation will prohibit the display of tobacco products in most retail shops throughout the New York City area. Arguing that the visible presence of cigarettes invites underage experimenting, Bloomberg is calling instead for such items to be concealed behind curtains or within cabinets. Given that persons under the age of 19 are not legally permitted to purchase tobacco products, the Mayor’s proposal seems to exist rather redundantly.”
Bradley Gerstman, Esq., and Counsel to NYAGS argues, “Actions of the New York City Health Department have already been overturned by the Courts for attempting to regulate tobacco within the Federal Trade Commission’s jurisdiction. Yet, the Mayor’s desire for a nanny state seems to continue dictating the direction of legislation, and thus the behavior of citizens.”
Bloomberg has backed a number of public health measures, including a crackdown on large sizes of sugary drinks and adding calorie counts to menus. A judge blocked the drinks ban but the city is appealing.
Bloomberg led the charge to ban smoking indoors and in public parks and beaches over the past decade.
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