NEW YORK CITY – If New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has his way, New Yorkers will pay the highest price in the country for a pack of cigarettes, USA Today reports. Currently, a pack of cigarettes in New York City starts at $10.50 (including taxes); De Blasio’s proposals would jack that up to $13 per pack because of a higher tax rate. Chicago has the highest taxes for cigarettes at $6.16 per pack, followed by New York City at $5.85 per pack.
The hike is part of the mayor’s overall plan to reduce smoking among city residents. “When it comes to New Yorkers' health, big tobacco is public enemy number one,” de Blasio said. His bills would increase the base price for all tobacco products; lower the number of tobacco retailers via attrition; create retail licenses for e-cigs and cap the number of outlets; mandate residential buildings have a smoking policy; and forbid the sale of tobacco at drugstores.
The proposals drew ire from the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS), which pointed out that illegal cigarettes are the real issue. “We resent the fact that the administration and the City Council are trying to attack law-abiding retailers when the real problem is on the streets,” said James Calvin, president of NYACS.
Bootleg cigarettes go for as low as $7 a pack on city streets, with 55.5% of cigarettes lit up in the state coming from illegal sources in 2014, according to a study by the Tax Foundation. New York State is No. 1 in terms of cigarette smuggling. “This whole package of bills is misdirected at licensed, responsible retailers of tobacco products,” Calvin added. “The biggest challenge facing New York City is a pervasive black market cigarette epidemic. That’s where kids get cigarettes. That’s where hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers get untaxed cigarettes every day out on the street from black marketers and bootleggers who undercut licensed taxed retailers like the ones we represent.”