Category Archives: New York City

A pack of smokes in New York City now $13

The famous smoking billboard in New York City’s Times Square. From 1943.

New York City continues to build upon its reputation as the most tobacco-unfriendly city in America.

A pack of cigarettes in New York City will now cost $13 a pack under a “minimum price law” passed by the city council.

In addition, the council banned cigarette sales in all pharmacies and will cut the number of licenses for businesses to sell tobacco (mostly through attrition).

The banning of sales in pharmacies is a great idea, I think. San Francisco already did this and the pharmacy chain CVS banned cigarette sales. Meanwhile, other pharmacy chains like Walgreens are being lobbied to stop cigarette sales.

New York City also has among the highest cigarette tax in the nation — about $5.85 a pack … just for taxes.

New York already has a pretty low smoking rate — out of more than 7 million people, roughly 900,000 are smokers, about 12 percent, lower than the national average of about 16 percent.

I have mixed feelings about the $13 a pack law because I think by jacking up the price of cigarettes THAT high, two things will happen … it will encourage some people to quit but it will also add to what is already a major cigarette smuggling problem on the East Coast.

Virginia, only about a four-hour drive from New York City, has some of the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation at 30 cents a pack. So a pack of cigarettes in Virginia is already $5 a pack cheaper than New York City, even before this new law takes effect.

This inequity in tobacco taxes has created a huge cigarette smuggling businesses on the East Coast (North Carolina is also 45 cents a pack). It’s estimated that it’s a $15 billion a year industry. So, I fear that jacking up the price that much is just going to do that much more to create a black market for cigarettes.

And of course, if I was a pack a day smoker living in New York City, it would be worth it frankly to make a day trip to Virginia three or four times a year and buy a bunch of cartons of cigarettes. An average pack of cigarettes in Virginia is $5.50 — you’d be saving $7.50 a pack by going to Virginia. A carton is probably about $70 cheaper. Buy 10 cartons of cigarettes you’d have a stock of cigarettes to last over three months and you’d be saving as much as $700!

Honestly, I don’t see a thing stopping people from doing that.

I believe at a certain point, jacking up cigarette taxes reaches a plateau of diminishing returns. Yes, cigarette taxes should be higher in a lot of states, Virginia’s tax is insanely low, but jack it up too high, you encourage people to drive out to the nearest Indian reservation to buy smokes .. or Virginia. I think $2 a pack is a reasonable tax.

And Jesus, states need to get together to even out the inequity in their cigarette taxes, especially on the East Coast. Or the smuggling business is going to continue to thrive.


New York City bans chewing tobacco at Yankee Stadium, Citi Field

Yankee Stadium

As expected (though you never know if a speedbump is going to show up), New York City just banned chewing tobacco at all sporting facilities — this includes Yankee Stadium and the Mets’ Citi Field.

New York joins Chicago (which just banned chewing tobacco a week ago at Wrigley and Comiskey), Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston in banning chewing tobacco at baseball stadiums — and this includes, players, managers and coaches. Chewing tobacco will be banned in San Diego, Anaheim and Oakland in 2017 as California passed a statewide ban that won’t take effect until next year. Toronto is also expected to pass a similar ban on chew.

It will be interesting to see how stringently these rules will be enforced. There’s actually been some grousing and griping about the ban in Chicago. Interestingly, Boston, San Francisco and New York all the OK from their various Major League teams before going ahead with their bans. From an story:

“I’m into personal freedoms,” Maddon said. “I don’t understand the point with all that. Just eradicate tobacco period if you’re going to go that route. I’m not into over-legislating the human race, so for me I’ll just have to listen and learn.”

Generally, I like Joe Maddon, but what bothers me about his argument against banning chew is the players used similar arguments against drug testing for steroids.  They bitched and moaned about personal freedom over that, too. And to be clear, because this point seems to confuse a lot of people, they’re not saying players can’t chew tobacco … they just can’t chew tobacco while they’re at the ballpark. They can chew on their own time all they want.

The city and statewide bans are part of an effort to get chew out of baseball. It’s been banned for a long time at the NCAA and Minor League levels. However, it’s still allowed at the Major League level because it would take the approval of the Players’ Association to get it off the field and out of the dugouts, and the Players’ Association hasn’t shown any inclination into letting it be banned. Not all the players are happy about banning chew because of issues over personal choice, etc. It appears banning chew league-wide (and the MLB does actually want to ban it) would require it to be done as part of a collective  bargaining agreement.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 07: A general view of game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on April 7, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 07: A general view of game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on April 7, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Chew is a big problem in baseball. Only about 7 percent of men chew tobacco (and about 1 percent of women), but various surveys have shown that as many as 30 percent of professional baseball players chew. it’s been deeply ingrained in the culture of baseball since baseball’s been around.

The push to get it out of the game gained traction with Tony Gwynn’s death a couple of years ago. Gwynn, a longtime chewer, died of salivary gland cancer. Another well-known former player and chewer, Curt Schilling, also recently had a public battle with oral cancer. Both Gwynn and Schilling blamed chew for their cancer.


New York City may be next to ban chewing tobacco in ballparks


New York City could be soon joining Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco in banning chewing tobacco in baseball parks.

A bill has been introduced before the New York City Council to ban chewing tobacco in all ballparks in the city, and this includes Yankee Stadium and the Mets’ CitiField. And the ban might be in place by opening day in April.

From a New York Times article:

“If New York passes this bill, and I think it will, it moves us dramatically closer to the day when smokeless tobacco is prohibited in all major league cities,” said Matthew Myers, the president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

According to bill proponent, Councilman Corey Johnson, both the Yankees and the Mets are behind the bill.

I’m guessing with neither team opposing the bill and with the fact that New York City is one of the most anti-tobacco cities in the nation (The city has extremely high cigarette taxes and very strict smoking bans, thanks in large part to former mayor Michael Bloomberg, an anti-smoking zealot.), odds are this bill will pass. In San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles, bills in all three cities easily passed. Johnson says that he is hoping the bill will take effect before the beginning of baseball season in April.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 07: A general view of game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on April 7, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 07: A general view of game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on April 7, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

This bill is just the latest salvo by cities to force the Major League Players Association to ban chewing tobacco on the field. Chew is already banned on the field at the Minor League and NCAA levels and Major League Baseball has made it clear that it wants to ban chew on the field, too — however, the Players’ Association has to agree to it through the collective bargaining process.

When contacted for a comment by the Times, Mets’ third baseman David Wright responded:

 “On one hand, I would argue we are adults and that’s a choice we choose to make,” he wrote in an email. “On the other hand, we are role models and the last thing we want is for an underage kid to begin using because they watched their favorite players do it.”

I’d guess I’d respond to David no one is saying you can’t chew — you just can’t do it on the field during the games, just like you can’t smoke. Back in the day, players and managers used to actually smoke cigarettes in the dugout, but cigarettes on the field were banned by baseball many years ago. No one really seems to care about that.

In addition to San Francisco, Boston, L.A. and apparently soon New York, chew may be banned soon in San Diego and Oakland baseball parks because a bill is being considered by the California State Assembly to ban chew in all ballparks in the state.

Chew is a big problem among baseball players. A much, much higher percentage of baseball players use chew than the general population. It’s for some reason deeply ingrained into the culture of baseball. The issue of chew in baseball has been brought to the forefront somewhat by the recent death of Tony Gwynn from salivary gland cancer and the recent battle by Curt Schilling against oral cancer.


Smoking rate in New York City goes up

new york city

Weird story and a little troubling, one that goes against the national trend. Recent data shows that the smoking rate in New York City — yes, rabidly anti-smoking New York City, has actually went up from 2010, and not by a tiny amount Officials are blaming budget cuts to education for the rise in smoking rates.

The smoking rate in New York is still relatively low. According to new data, the rate was 16.1 percent in 2013, up from 14 percent in 2010. The national average is around 18 percent, which is down fairly dramatically from about 10 years ago, when it was about 21 percent (thanks to smoking bans, higher cigarettes taxes, less smoking in movies, more kids buying a clue about cigarettes — and frankly, the rise of vaping I think is becoming a big factor in declining smoking rates.).

What is striking about that increase is New York City has some ridiculously high cigarette taxes (on top of some high New York State cigarette taxes), among the highest in the nation, and a pack of cigarettes there can cost up to $12 to $14.

According to the Daily News story:

The city’s annual tobacco control budget, which pays for anti-smoking programs and marketing campaigns, has been cut almost in half since 2009, to $7.1 million from $13.5 million.

Huh, you’d think with the smoking rate going up, New York City would have more tax revenue to fund tobacco education programs.

New York City had one of the most adamantly anti-smoking mayors in the country, Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg not only signed ordinances banning smoking in bars and restaurants,he raised cigarette taxes in New York and even signed an ordinance outlawing sales to adults under 21.

Here is one of the great New York City funded anti-smoking commercials.


New York City bans cigarette sales to people under 21

teen-smokingOK, I’ve been called a do-gooder more times than I can count, but even for me this is a bit much (thanks to Haruko for the link). Sorry to the rest of my tobacco control brethren whom I support 97 percent of the time, I can’t completely jump on board this one. I have enough of a Libertarian streak that I think this is a little overboard.

The City of New York just imposed a ban on cigarette sales for people under the age of 21.

My problem with this is it likely will do little to cut down on smoking and it just smacks a little too much of “nanny state.” This is the same city under serial do-gooder Michael Bloomberg banned extra large sodas, which didn’t stand up to legal challenges (dumbest law ever. People would just buy two large sodas rather than one jumbo soda and drink the same amount.) Bloomberg was behind this law, too, though he is no longer mayor.

On Raw Story, which is a pretty liberal web site, even most of the supposed “nanny state liberals” are opposed to this. 18-year-olds can get a full driver’s licence, they can join the military, they can vote, they can see R-rated movies by themselves. But, they can’t buy a pack of cigarettes in New York City. Really? I’m old enough to remember that 45 years ago, young adults protested for the right to vote. And after years of protests and the ugliness of the Vietnam War, in which they could not vote but were asked to die for their country, they’re told in NYC they can’t buy a pack of smokes?

Haruko beat me to this point. The only thing 18-20 year olds can’t do is legally buy or use alcohol. The theory behind keeping alcohol illegal for kids under 21 is that teens haven’t developed the common sense yet to know when they are too drunk to drive. Of course, you can say this about ANYONE, but it’s particularly acute for kids 18-21. So there is some common sense to that law. But, I’m not seeing the common sense in the New York City law and I question whether it will accomplish anything. I doubt it will stop 18-21 year-olds from smoking.

The difference between alcohol and cigarettes is cigarettes aren’t an intoxicant, well, not much of one … let’s put it this way, no one ever got killed from someone smoking and driving. And frankly, I don’t see how this is going to save anyone’s life. Very, very few people start smoking between 18-21. Almost everyone starts smoking at 15-18, when cigarettes are already illegal for kids. All this is going to do is encourage adult teens to get their older brothers or friends to buy their cigarettes for them, or they can just drive or take the subway to Hoboken or out to Uniondale or Hempstead or to Yonkers and buy all the cigs they want (or frankly, it will probably encourage more adult teens to use e-cigs. The law also banned e-cig sales to adult teens, but again, they can just take a subway to Long Island to buy their e-cig products.). Again, it’s laws like this that don’t seem to be based on a lot of common sense that give the tobacco control crowd such a bad rep as do-gooders. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone files suit over the law (like people did against New York’s really stupid jumbo soda pop law).

Frankly, I support an approach of continuing to educate kids of the dangers of smoking rather than this law. In the long run, education will make more inroads than laws that adult teens will see as specious and hypocritical.