On Tuesday, November 19, 2013, Mayor Bloomberg signed landmark legislation making New York City the first major city in the country to raise to 21 the minimum sale age for cigarettes, cigars, and electronic cigarettes. The Mayor also signed a law that will stop tobacco industry discounting schemes, set a $10.50 price floor for a pack of cigarettes or little cigars, and crack down on cigarette tax evasion.
Dr. Kurt Ribisl conducts research in the area of tobacco control and specializes in youth access to tobacco products. We asked him what he thought about the proposed Sensible Tobacco Enforcement Act that is being considered by the NY City Council. Here’s what he said:
“Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to regulate the sales and marketing of tobacco products at New York City retailers will decrease the appeal and use of tobacco products, particularly among youth.
Some NYC convenience store owners claim that Mayor Bloomberg and City Council’s proposed tobacco control legislation will reduce the number of tobacco retailers in our City and cause the loss of retail jobs.
We’ve heard this argument before. Ten years ago, the NYC Smoke-Free Air Act went into effect to ensure that all New Yorkers would be able to breathe clean, smoke-free air in the workplace, regardless of whether they work in a high-rise office or neighborhood restaurant or bar. Many people opposed the bill, and they tried to stop it. They warned of dire predictions about how the ban would lead to job losses and lost tax revenue.
They were wrong.
Raising cigarette prices is one of the most effective ways to prevent and reduce smoking, especially among youth. Research shows that every 10 percent increase in the real price of cigarettes reduces overall cigarette consumption by approximately three to five percent and the number of youth who smoke by six or seven percent.
New York City has the highest state-local tax on cigarettes in the country. Youth smoking in our city declined from 17.6% in 2001 to 8.5% in 2007. But it has remained level since then. More work needs to be done to bring down youth smoking rates and prevent kids from lighting up.
The recent proposal by Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council will increase prices on tobacco products in an effort to reduce youth smoking. A set of “Sensible Tobacco Enforcement and Pricing” (STEP) initiatives would work to stop trafficking of illegal untaxed cigarettes, restrict the use of the coupons and price discounts, and create a price floor for a pack of cigarettes.
The Department of Finance and the Sheriff’s office have been vigilant in their efforts to stop counterfeiting and the illegal trafficking of untaxed cigarettes. A growing body of evidence supports the connection between cigarette trafficking and organized crime because it provides large profits with lower risks than other criminal activities such as drug dealing.
Other states are not as rigorous in their pricing and tax strategies as New York State. Near New York, Virginia is a low-taxed state. North and South Carolina don’t require a tax stamp on cigarettes. Stores that sell cigarettes ondo not charge sales tax because they are not subject to US federal or state taxes.
On March 18, 2013, Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Council announced new legislation that would make New York City the first in the nation to keep tobacco products out of sight in retail stores. This bold step would protect youth from Big Tobacco’s marketing tactics and reduce youth smoking.
Despite past success, youth smoking rates have stalled, and tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in New York City. According to a recent Surgeon General report, 88 percent of adult smokers start by the age of 18. Under the new proposal, tobacco products can still be sold, but retailers will no longer be able to display tobacco products prominently and in plain view of youth and other customers.
This week, New York City commemorates the tenth anniversary of the NYC Smoke-Free Air Act, a landmark piece of legislation that has helped New Yorkers breathe easier and live longer. Thanks to this groundbreaking law, New Yorkers are able to breathe clean, smoke-free air in the workplace, regardless of whether they work in a high-rise office or neighborhood restaurant or bar.
The NYC Smoke-Free Air Act was built upon a continuing campaign that has protected residents from the dangers of secondhand smoke and helped drive down smoking rates in the city to record lows.
Presented on July 24, 2012 before the New York City Board of Health:
Good afternoon and thank you to the members of the Board of Health for the opportunity to speak today about Article 81 – Food Preparation and Food Service Establishments – also known as the proposal to limit some sugar-sweetened beverage purchases to sixteen ounces.
My name is Sheelah Feinberg, and I am the Executive Director of the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City. We are an organization based in each borough that has worked with more than one hundred health and youth focused community groups to raise awareness around tobacco control and prevention. It has been said that sugar is “the new tobacco.” I’m here today to address that comparison directly.
Ten years ago, 25.6% of adults in our country were smoking. In 2010, 19.3% of American adults were smoking. Fireworks will light up the skies of Independence Day, but let’s also celebrate because, across the nation, fewer people are lighting up, and more are choosing to live smoke-free.
There’s a momentum building around the country in support of smoke-free housing. According a new Quinnipiac poll, 59% of New Yorkers want to live in smoke-free apartment buildings. Building smoking policies would help educate New Yorkers about the smoke-free housing options that are available to them.