Dec. 27, 2018 By Laura Hanrahan
The New York City Health Department announced today that cigarettes and other tobacco products will be banned from sale in all pharmacies across the five boroughs, including supermarkets and big-box stores with a pharmacy section, come January 1.
The policy is part of Mayor de Blasio’s package of bills, signed into law in 2017, aimed at reducing tobacco use among New Yorkers—something the city reports still causes 12,000 deaths each year.
While smoking rates have declined, more than 860,000 adults and 13,000 youth still smoke in New York City, putting themselves at risk of stroke, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and several types of cancer, the health department said.
“Tobacco use remains of one of the leading causes of preventable death in New York City, and reducing its availability is key to protecting the health of New Yorkers,” said Dr. Herminia Palacio, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, in a statement. “People trust pharmacies to help them stay well—they should be helping smokers quit, not the opposite.”
National drugstore magnate CVS voluntarily stopped selling tobacco products in 2015, and was soon joined by several independent pharmacies. About 500 pharmacies across the city, however, still sell tobacco.
The new policy is predicted to reduce the number of smokers in New York City by 160,000 over the next three years by cutting the number of cigarette retailers in half, said Council Member Brad Lander.
“Strong evidence shows that just being exposed to nearby tobacco retailers make kids twice as likely to smoke,” Lander said.
The tobacco ban follows legislation that banned e-cigarette sales in pharmacies, which went into effect in August 2017, and other signed laws meant to curb tobacco use, like the price hike on tobacco products and a cap on the number of tobacco retailers citywide.
Cigarettes and tobacco products can only be sold in the city with a valid tobacco retail dealer license. Selling these products with a license is a misdemeanor, and those caught selling without a valid license two times in three years can see their stores temporarily closed.