I lived in New York City for about 4 years. I moved there after I finished college and settled into the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. I loved living in New York. One thing about New York that I hated was the cost of cigarettes.
Michael Bloomberg, the eternal mayor of New York (if this confuses you, know that he changed the laws limiting the number of times someone can be mayor to increase it to three, then after he was elected for a third term, he changed it back!), had slapped an extra tax of about $5 per pack on cigarettes, meaning packs within the city limits cost about $12-$13. The frugal person in me knew there had to be another way.
I experimented with ordering cigarettes from the Czech Republic. These worked out to be about $2 a pack but they took 6 weeks and I was simply terrified in the post office that I would be caught. After a couple times of doing this, I decided the risk was too high and I was too impatient.
Soon after that, I discovered a deli near my house that did not seem to sell cigarettes, if you looked at the display, but people were buying them and getting them in paper bags. I walked up to the counter and asked for Camel Lights, and was rewarded with a price tag of only $6! My new favorite deli!
It didn’t last long. One day the proprietor told me the truck bringing their cigarettes from the Indian reservations upstate was caught, and they would soon be getting some from Virginia instead. The price increased to $7.50. I kept buying them.
Until I discovered electronic cigarettes. And now Bloomberg wants to take those away too! I live in California now, but I keep tabs on things back east where my family lives. A friend recently posted an article about it and I investigated it.
Bloomberg’s administration wants to put e-cigs into the category of tobacco products and completely ban any flavored e-cigarettes (the old argument that only children like sweet things.) They are doing this very quietly and they don’t want you to know about it. You can read more about e-cigs and the legislation here.
It was uncovered in a draft of one of three tobacco related bills that are moving through city hall in New York. One bill seeks to raise smoking age to 21. Another would completely prohibit any advertising or signage of tobacco in stores. The third bill would outlaw any coupons, prohibiting any cigarettes from costing less than $10.50, while increasing the fines my old friends would have to pay for their illegal sales of cigarettes.
Let me go on a tangent here – I hate Bloomberg. Raising taxes on cigarettes is not going to make people stop, and instead you just create a market where people are seeking ways to find illegal cigarettes and you are hurting the community who smokes – primarily the middle and lower class. Killing coupons is awful. You are not stopping children from smoking by making coupons illegal, and you are not ending obesity by making sodas smaller.
Anyway… these bills initially contained nothing on electronic cigarettes. These bills were all introduced by Bloomberg’s request. Thomas Farley, Health Department Commissioner initially told e-cigarette advocates back in May that they had no intention of targeting electronic cigarettes. But these newly leaked bills show that is no longer the case (if it ever was).
The bills show that menthol and tobacco flavored e-cigarettes would remain untouched. But the growing market of flavored e-cigs would be permitted only at “tobacco bars.” Of course, there are barely any tobacco bars in NYC, as they were outlawed unless they existed before December 31, 2001.
This could equal out to all electronic cigarettes being banned. Essentially, all of the e-cigarettes have flavors in them. When you outlaw e-cigarettes, you are telling people to go back to smoking their traditional cigarettes and sucking in carcinogens and tar. That’s just plain silly. People who have successfully made the switch to e-cigarettes should not be punished.
This also would have a negative effect on the small companies that make these products. Unlike Big Tobacco, the companies that provide a lot of the e-liquids and accessories that make e-smoking possible are small local ones. Flavors like Bedford Slims’ Dark Roast (which is a coffee flavor that has nicotine and caffeine in it) sell very well in a wired city like New York.
Bloomberg contends that these flavors are designed to lure in children and turn them into e-smokers. They contend that flavors and flavors alone make e-cigarettes appealing to children. They cite a study from Florida that shows that 8.4% of high school students had tried an electronic cigarette in 2012,which was an increase of about 40%. They claim that this ban would help to protect the youths from becoming addicted to nicotine.
The bill even offers the completely unfounded and unsupported statement, “”Electronic cigarette marketing is often designed to deter smokers from quitting and to attract youth.” I seriously doubt that kids around the world are lining up for electronic cigarettes – they just don’t have the bad boy/girl image that Big Tobacco has groomed over the years. Kids don’t think e-cigarettes are cool – I can promise you that. I am a teacher and I know what high school age kids like, and it is not e-cigarettes!
When contacted by a journalist regarding the story, a spokeswoman from the Mayor’s office refused a comment, just offering that the discussions were ongoing. In addition, the Health Department refuses to give a comment, instead saying that bills have various drafts and versions before they are finalized. Which is true – this is not a sure thing.
To me it seems that Bloomberg and his administration are assuming that the City Council will give these bills a green light because they do contain some good aspects that could combat youth smoking. But to try and take away people’s electronic cigarettes is wrong.
Raising the age, in my opinion, might not be the most necessary or effective deterrent. When I visited my older brother in New York as a college freshman, I found it easy to buy beer at his corner store in Harlem at the age of 18. We persuaded my 16 year old younger brother to try and buy a “loosey,” a cigarette sold as just one loose cigarette, and he was able to. Getting things underage is not a problem for most neighborhoods in Manhattan – but I assume Bloomberg is only familiar with the nicer parts of Manhattan anyway.
What really frustrates me about this whole thing is seeing a much better alternative to smoking being looked down again. So many New Yorkers have been able to stop smoking and start breathing better. Bloomberg has done more than enough to attempt to regulate the health of NYC residents, and he should stop now, especially considering the fact that this bill is littered with unfounded statements and speculation. If he really wants to make sure people are living healthier lives, perhaps he should do a study on the effects of electronic cigarettes – he certainly has the money to fund one! Such a study could provide basis for his claims (which I doubt) or prove to him that these are not deadly products!