New York hikes price of cigarettes to $13; highest in US

NEW YORK (AP) — The price of a pack of cigarettes in New York City is going up — to at least $13 — and the number of places you can buy them is going down under legislation signed Monday by the mayor.

The new minimum price law, which takes effect on June 1, will make New York the most expensive place in the U.S. to buy cigarettes, Health Department officials said.

“We are sending a loud and clear message that we will not let their greed kill any more New Yorkers without a fight,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a bill signing ceremony at a Brooklyn hospital. “These new laws will not only help reduce the number of smokers in our city, but also save lives.”

Currently, the minimum allowed price per pack is $10.50.

The planned price hike is one of seven bills the Democratic mayor signed Monday aimed at pressuring the city’s 900,000 estimated smokers to quit.

Another new rule will reduce by half the number of retailers licensed to sell tobacco products. About 8,300 businesses now have a license. The numbers will be reduced through attrition, officials said. Philadelphia and San Francisco have similar licensing restrictions.

Other laws will ban the sale of all tobacco products in pharmacies, require licensing of e-cigarette retailers and require all residential buildings to have smoking policies that are given to all current and prospective tenants. Some residential buildings will be required to ban smoking in common areas like hallways.

New York began a regulatory war on smoking under the previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg, a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent. The city has long subscribed to a theory that driving up prices, either through high taxes or by setting price minimums, causes people to either give up smoking or not start.

Smoking rates in the city have declined from 21.5 percent in 2002 to about 14.3 in 2015. City health officials said they believed the new restrictions could decrease the rate to 12 percent by 2020.

Opponents of the price increase say it may push many smokers into buying untaxed, unregulated cigarettes on the black market.

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