New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed series of measures to crackdown on tobacco use in the Big Apple. He wants to hike the minimum price of a pack of cigarettes from $10.50 to $13, create new regulations on e-cigarettes and restrict where tobacco can be sold.
From the New York Daily News:
A pack of cigarettes in New York City is going to get more expensive — $13 at a minimum — and harder to find, if Mayor de Blasio has his way.
The mayor on Wednesday announced his support for a package of City Council bills aimed at cutting the number of smokers by 160,000 by 2020 — including hiking the minimum price for a pack from $10.50 to $13, capping the number of retailers in each neighborhood that can sell tobacco, banning pharmacies like Duane Reade from selling smokes, and regulating e-cigarettes in the same way as cigarettes.
[…]In addition to making them more pricey, the plan would make cigarettes more scarce — pharmacies would be forced to follow the voluntary lead of CVS, which stopped selling cigarettes. And the number of permits available for retailers who want to sell tobacco would be reduced from around 9,000 to around 6,000 over 10 years, Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said.
“There are 29 times more tobacco retailers in New York City than there are Starbucks,” de Blasio said. “Tobacco is everywhere. It’s just too easy to get.”
De Blasio’s proposal doesn’t take into account the fact that e-cigarettes have been shown to help people quit smoking. A study published last year in the British Medical Journal found that e-cigarettes helped increase the chances of people quitting smoking and staying smoke free for a longer period of time. The study also found no serious side effects in either the short or medium term. Treating e-cigarettes the same as regular tobacco cigarettes doesn’t make sense from a public health standpoint.
In addition, the increased prices on tobacco will increase the opportunity for black market cigarette dealers. Just as drugs and guns are available on the black market, cigarettes will be as well. People who want to obtain cigarettes will simply buy them on the street or they will buy them elsewhere and bring them into New York City.
Also, enforcing this law will create new opportunities for dangerous encounters between police and citizens. In the summer of 2014, Eric Garner was choked to death by a New York City police officer while they were trying to arrest him. Garner’s alleged crime was that he was selling single cigarettes, called “loosies” on the street. Surely this proposed new law will increase such dangerous encounters with police officers.
No one will say that smoking tobacco is healthy. However, it is healthier than the government’s desire to control people’s lives and extract more tax revenue.