Mayor Bill de Blasio and a group of City Council members are determined to make New Yorkers quit smoking, one way or another.
On Wednesday, the mayor announced a set of five legislative proposals that his office claims will reduce the number of smokers in New York by 160,000 over the next three years. He plans to accomplish this audacious feat of social engineering by taxing the hell out of tobacco products, and making packs of cigarettes even more expensive.
One of the bills proposed will raise the minimum price for packs of cigarettes and "little cigars" in the city from $10.50 to $13, and will also impose a 10 percent tax on all other tobacco products for the first time. Another bill will cap the number of tobacco retailer dealer licenses in each of the city's community districts at 50 percent of the current number, meaning that, if passed, the number of stores in your neighborhood slinging smokes will cut in half.
Other measures that were proposed to the council on Wednesday include a ban on selling tobacco at pharmacies across the city, stricter regulations on e-cigarettes and a new "smoking disclosure policy," which will require residential building owners to disclose whether or not smoking is permitted in their units.
"When it comes to New Yorker’s health, big tobacco is public enemy #1," de Blasio said in a statement. "These companies have used the same playbook for decades, and we can no longer sit by while the next generation becomes addicted.”
According to the mayor's office, smoking rates in New York have dipped from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 14.3 percent in 2015, but there are still 900,000 smokers in the city.
All of the bills in question will be heard in committee on April 27, and have enough backing to make their passage all but certain. The last time a New York mayor tried to tax citizens into making healthier choices (remember Bloomberg's soda tax?), it didn't pan out so well. But cigarettes are a whole other story, and New York's smokers should start preparing for their habit to become more expensive.