$13 a pack? NYC mayor wants highest cigarette prices in US

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NEW YORK (AP) — The minimum price for a pack of cigarettes would rise to $13 in New York City under a proposal backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
De Blasio is backing an effort to force people to quit smoking by raising the city’s current legal minimum price of a pack from $10.50, further cementing New York City’s claim on having among the most expensive cigarettes in the country.
The Democrat announced his support Wednesday for a series of legislative proposals that he said could reduce the number of smokers in the city by 160,000 by the year 2020. An estimated 900,000 New York City residents currently smoke.
“What we’re here today talking about is saving lives,” said Dr. Mary T. Bassett, the city’s health commissioner, who appeared with the mayor at offices of the American Heart Association. “We want to make it easier to quit and harder to smoke.”
The proposals are set for hearings later this month.
The city council also will consider legislation to gradually reduce by half the number of licenses issued to retailers to sell tobacco products. Philadelphia and San Francisco have similar licensing restrictions.
An American Cancer Society study found that 8,992 retail outlets were licensed to sell tobacco in New York as of October, and about a third of those were within 500 feet of a school.
Other proposals would set minimum prices and create taxes on smokeless tobacco and small cigars, and require sellers of electronic cigarettes to obtain licenses.
Opponents of the city’s high cigarette prices have argued that it has pushed many smokers into buying untaxed, unregulated cigarettes on the black market.

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