Take My Breath Away: NYC Cigarette Pack Price Shoots Up to a Hefty $13 Minimum

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New York has one of the highest real estate prices in the US, with one-bedroom apartments costing an average of $3,000 a month. Now, it’s about to become the most expensive place in the United States to purchase cigarettes, thanks to new legislation signed Monday by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The new laws will go into effect June 1, 2018, and will increase the minimum price of cigarettes from $10.50 a pack to $13, CBS news reported. 

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"We have these major international corporations that clearly know better but to make a buck they're looking to hook a whole new generation of young people on tobacco products and we have to stop them," de Blasio said at the bill signing ceremony at Kings County hospital in Brooklyn.

"We are sending a loud and clear message that we will not let their greed kill any more New Yorkers without a fight," he said. "These new laws will not only help reduce the number of smokers in our city, but also save lives."

According to NYC government statistics, there were an average of 43,963 cases of tobacco-related cancers and 20,767 deaths in NYC between the years 2008 and 2012. The Centers for Disease Control also states that cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths every year in the United States.

The legislation doesn't stop at cigarette prices. The mayor also signed a law that reduces the number of retailers — currently numbered at 8,3000 — licensed to sell tobacco, a licensing restriction that has already been implemented in Philadelphia and San Francisco.

The Big Apple will also ban the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies, impose a 10 percent tax on cigars and loose tobacco, require e-cigarette sellers to obtain licenses and require all residential building to implement smoking regulations.

According to Councilman Corey Johnson, who is on the City Council's Health Committee, the tax hikes will generate $1 million annually, which can be used toward public housing programs.

New York has already made improvements in the smoking department. Smoking rates decreased from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 14.3 percent in 2015. Health officials believe that the new regulations could reduce the smoking rate to 12 percent by 2020. 

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However, tobacco vendors have criticized the new laws, arguing that they will breed a cigarette black market, where smokers can purchase untaxed and unregulated cigarettes from bootleggers (already being called "butt-leggers") smuggling in tobacco products from low-cost states like North Carolina and Virginia.

"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 following the passage of the legislation.

A spokeswoman for RAI Services Company, a subsidiary of Reynold American Inc., an American tobacco company, also expressed her disapproval of the new laws.

"There should be concern that this ordinance will most likely only further exacerbate the illicit trade of cigarettes in New York City, which already has the highest percentage of contraband cigarettes in the country," Brittany Adams said.

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