The lowest legal price for a pack of cigarettes in New York City is set to rise from $10.50 to $13 — a nearly 25 percent hike — as part of legislation passed Wednesday that’s aimed at reducing smoking.
The seven bills approved by the City Council also impose a 10-percent tax on all tobacco products except cigarettes, cap the number of tobacco retailers, ban cigarette sales in pharmacies, boost the cost of a cigarette-selling license, mandate licenses for electronic cigarette dealers and expand existing smoking bans to e-cigarettes.
A prime sponsor of the cigarette-fee legislation, Councilman Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), a cigarette smoker, said the rules would “undoubtedly save tens of thousands of lives.”
Of nicotine addiction, Johnson said: “Together, we can loosen its grip and win this battle.”
But Councilman Steve Levin (D-Brooklyn), who quit smoking last year, says he supports other legislation to discourage smoking, but “this one will hit people in the pocketbook,” affecting addicted smokers who may be least likely to afford it.
“I know how difficult it can be to quit and there are a lot of people who would love to quit and are unable to do so,” he said. Levin says he supports the other six bills.
The rising price bill was the most controversial: it passed 33 to 9, with Levin and eight others voting no.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who supports the legislation, must still sign the bill. The signing date has not been announced.
Ramon Murphy, who owns a bodega in upper Manhattan, said the higher price would cut into his business — he takes in between 10 percent and 20 percent of his haul, or about $3,000 per week — and drive smokers across the border or to the black market.
“They’ll go to the street,” Murphy said. “They’ll go to Jersey.”
Also Wednesday, the council passed legislation making it easier for tenants to prove harassment claims, restricting when landlords can visit during odd hours and allowing tenants to recover damages and other fees.