New York City Bans Pharmacy Tobacco Sales

September 5, 2017

The city's decision is the latest move against tobacco in pharmacies.

As part of a sweeping effort to significantly reduce the number of smokers in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio last week signed a series of bills including one to ban tobacco sales at pharmacies in the city.

“Pharmacies are places of health and should not sell deadly consumer products,” according to a statement from de Blasio’s office about the ban.

New York City is the third city-behind San Francisco and Boston-to outlaw tobacco sales at pharmacies. Currently, there are more than 550 pharmacies licensed to sell tobacco products in New York City.

Related article: To sell or not to sell tobacco: Who should decide?

In June, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the final reading of an ordinance to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, anywhere in the city, according to the organization.

Already, more than 100 municipalities-in addition to the three major U.S. cities-have banned pharmacy sales of tobacco products, according to the American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation.

"Easy access to tobacco retailers makes it hard for smokers to quit and has contributed to the recent rise of NYC youth using cigars and smokeless tobacco,” said New York City Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas. 

While smoking rates in New York City have declined from 21.5% in 2002 to 14.3% in 2015, the city still has more than 900,000 smokers, according to the mayor’s statement. “These new bills will help decrease the smoking prevalence to a historically low rate of 12% by 2020.”

The prohibition against tobacco sales in pharmacies would begin after current licenses expire in 2018.

Another bill raises the minimum prices for all tobacco products, including cigarettes, and imposes a new 10% local tax on tobacco products other than cigarettes.

New York City will also cap the number of tobacco retail dealer licenses in each community district at 50% of the current number of licenses. No new tobacco retail dealer licenses will be issued in a community district until its total decreases through attrition below the cap.

It will also mandate a retail license for e-cigarette and cap the number of e-cigarette retailers. “E-cigarette use has increased dramatically since e-cigarettes were introduced in U.S. markets less than 10 years ago,” the statement said.

Related article: The FDA Warns Against E-Cigarettes

“By giving DCA [the Department of Consumer Affairs] the ability to license e-cigarettes and limit the number of retailers selling tobacco products,” said Salas, “we can better enforce existing laws that help keep tobacco products out of the hands of minors and improve the health of all New Yorkers.”