New York City is now the most expensive place in the U.S. to buy cigarettes thanks to a new price hike Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law Monday.
The Associated Press (AP) reports that the new legislation includes a price hike that would raise the price of a pack of cigarettes to $13 a pack and restrictions on the number of places allowed to sell cigarettes.
“We are sending a loud and clear message that we will not let their greed kill any more New Yorkers without a fight,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters Monday after signing the bill into law at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn. “These new laws will not only help reduce the number of smokers in our city, but also save lives.”
The minimum price for cigarettes is currently $10.50.
The city’s health department told the New York Daily News that on average, cigarettes in New York City cost $11.24.
The latest anti-smoking legislation is designed to pressure the city’s estimated 900,000 smokers to kick the habit. DeBlasio said at the press conference that his goal is to reduce the number of smokers in the city by 160,000 by 2020.
Other tobacco products would also face a 10 percent tax that will go towards public housing.
Bloomberg reports that other provisions of the law would ban the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies, require sellers of electronic cigarettes to pay a retail license fee, and double the retail license fee for tobacco sellers to $200.
Critics of the legislation, including some council members who voted against the measure, say the price hike would affect low-income people who are more likely to smoke.
DeBlasio responded to critics of the legislation by saying low-income people can call a free hotline to help them quit smoking.
There are also concerns that some people looking to get their fix cheaply will turn to the unregulated black market and destroy retailers’ investments in efforts to prevent children and teens from smoking.
“These measures will destroy the business investment of retailers who have been leading the effort to prevent youth access to tobacco products, and the result will be lost revenue, lost jobs and an increasing number of sales in unregulated and illegal settings,” Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, said.
The price hike is scheduled to go into effect June 1, 2018, and the pharmacy ban is scheduled to start January 1, 2019.