Curtailing the availability of discounted and smuggled cigarettes

PASSED BY THE CITY COUNCIL ON OCTOBER 30, rx 2013. Read our news release.

The Sensible Tobacco Enforcement proposal cracks down on the widespread availability of discounted and smuggled cigarettes that are cheap and affordable to kids. It strengthens enforcement and would help honest retailers compete. It also prohibits the sale of discounted tobacco products, creates a price floor for cigarette packs and little cigars, and imposes packaging requirements on cheap cigars. The Department of Finance will have authority to seal premises where there are repeat violations: two violations for unlicensed activity within a two-year period or three other tobacco violations within a three-year period.

The Sensible Tobacco Enforcement bill includes the following provisions:

  • Increasing penalties for retailers who evade tobacco taxes or sell tobacco without a license.
  • Prohibiting retailers from redeeming coupons or honoring other price discounts for tobacco products.
  • Creating a minimum price for cigarettes and little cigars, which are virtually identical to cigarettes, at $10.50 per pack.
  • Requiring that cheap cigars and cigarillos be sold in packages of at least 4, and little cigars be sold in packages of at least 20. Cigars that cost more than $3 each are exempt from the packaging rule.
  • Giving the Department of Finance the authority to seal premises of tobacco sellers that have had repeated violations of the law.

Illegal trafficking of cigarettes has a particularly strong impact on New York City, where cigarettes are the most expensive in the country due to federal, state and local taxes. Illegal tobacco sales are estimated to cost federal and state governments $5 billion annually and an estimated $250 to $600 million is lost annually in unpaid taxes from cigarette trafficking in New York City. This activity also hurts businesses that follow the law by allowing unfair, illegal competition.

The City Council passed this legislation on October 30, 2013 — send a message of thanks to the City Council:

Take Action