Contentious bill likely to drive smokers to black market

Thursday, August 31, 2017
 | 
Chris Woodward (OneNewsNow.com)

smoking cigarette closeupNew York City's efforts to curb smoking may do more harm than good.

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently signed legislation raising the minimum price for a pack of cigarettes to $13 in New York City. Health Department officials said the hike from $10.50 would make New York City the most expensive place in the nation to purchase cigarettes.

"The idea is that it will get people to smoke less," acknowledges Jeff Stier, a New Yorker working for the National Center for Public Policy Research. "The lesson not learned is that the higher the tax, the more incentive there is for people to go to the black market."

Stier tells OneNewsNow that this type of black market exchange is already quite common in the Big Apple, where an estimated 900,000 of the city's 8.5 million residents currently smoke.

Stier

"I know people who actually do it, who go visit family [in NYC] and come back with a trunk load of cigarettes to sell," Stier continues. "The problem is those cigarettes are getting into the hands of youth, especially disadvantaged youth."

Similar to those in San Francisco and Philadelphia, the new price hike of $13 per pack will include taxes, and is part of a package of NYC anti-smoking bills that will go into effect on June 1, 2018. Another bill in that package will gradually reduce by half the number of licenses issued to tobacco retailers.

teen smoking e-cigarette 2According to Stier, e-cigarettes and their retailers were included in this new bill, even though these products help people kick their use of regular cigarettes.

"They're going to cut the number of sales licenses in half," he says. "So they're going to make it harder to get these products that people use to quit smoking."

Finally, Stier voices concern that these new bills would not only increase usage in disadvantaged youth, but also cause a significant loss of NYC revenue to the black market and online sales of e-cigarettes.

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