New York has been a global leader in the fight against Big Tobacco. Both New York City and State have enacted laws and policies that lead to reduced rates of smoking, protect all New Yorkers from secondhand smoke and tobacco marketing, and discourage youth from ever starting the deadly habit.
In addition to legislation and policy initiatives, cigarette tax increases at the city, state, and federal level over the past ten years have made the cost of a pack of cigarettes in New York City the highest in the United States, which has been a major contributor to the smoking rate falling to a record low.
See below for highlights of existing tobacco control laws in New York City, New York State, and nationwide.
existing New york city legislation
2013 Tobacco 21 (Intro-0250)
The New York City Council passed a law that makes New York City the first major city or state in the United States to have a minimum purchase age of 21 for tobacco products.
2013 Sensible Tobacco Enforcement Policies (Intro-1021)
At the request of Mayor Bloomberg, Manhattan Council Member and Chair of the Health Committee Maria del Carmen Arroyo introduced legislation known as "Sensible Tobacco Enforcement Policies" (STEP) that will combat illegal cigarette smuggling. The bill increases penalties for retailers who evade tobacco taxes or sell tobacco without a license; prohibits retailers from redeeming coupons or honoring other price discounts for tobacco products; creates a minimum price for cigarettes and little cigars, which are virtually identical, at $10.50 per pack; requires that cheap cigars and cigarillos be sold in packages of at least four, and little cigars be sold in packages of at least 20. Cigars that cost more than $3 each are exempt from the packaging rule.
2002 NYC Smoke-Free Air Act (SFAA)
The Smoke Free Air Act (SFAA), which went into effect on March 30, 2003, prohibited smoking in virtually all workplaces and indoor recreational venues. An amendment to the City’s 1995 Smoke-Free Air Act, the new law extended rules on smoking to cover all restaurants and most bars regardless of seating and size. The law also restricts smoking in some outdoor restaurant and bar seating areas.
2009 SFAA Amendment Prohibiting Smoking On and Around Hospital Grounds (Intro 642)
The New York City Council passed a law to prohibit smoking on hospital grounds and within fifteen feet of any hospital entrance or exit. The bill passed the City Council unanimously and was signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg on August 13, 2009.
2009 NYC Ban on Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products (Intro 433)
The City Council voted 47 to 1 to stop the sale of ‘flavored’ tobacco products in New York City. The bill was signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg on October 28, 2009.
2011 Smoke-Free Parks, Beaches and Pedestrian Plazas in NYC (Intro 332)
The New York City Council most recently passed legislation making all New York City parks, beaches and pedestrian plazas smoke-free. The bill passed 36-12 and was signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg on February 22, 2011.
Existing New York State Legislation
2003 Regulation of Smoking in Public and Work Places
Following the lead of New York City, New York State passed legislation in July 2003 updating and extending its clean indoor air laws to bars, restaurants, and other public places.
2011 Smoke-Free Metro North and Long Island Railroad Platforms
Signed into law on August 15, 2011, this bill prohibits smoking on platforms of the Long Island and Metro North railroads.
2012 Smoke-Free School Entryways
On September 5, 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law that prohibits smoking within one-hundred feet of public or private school entryways.
2012 Restricting the Sale of E-Cigarette to Minors
A bill restricting the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of eighteen was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on September 5, 2012.
A comprehensive list of tobacco control policies is available at the New York State Department of Health website.
Existing Federal Tobacco Legislation
1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA)
New York City and New York State joined 46 state attorneys general in suing the four major tobacco companies to recoup the millions of health care dollars spent treating people made ill by smoking. The negotiated agreement includes financial restitution to government and restrictions on tobacco industry marketing and promotions aimed at youth. Under the agreement, tobacco advertising on billboards, print ads in magazines with 15% or more youth readership, use of cartoon characters such a Joe Camel, and public distribution of promotional gear are also prohibited by tobacco companies.
Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (H.R.1256)
On June 22, 2009, President Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, authorizing the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco. This is a federal law that gives the FDA authority to regulate tobacco. Highlights of the bill include: a crack down on tobacco marketing and sales to kids (i.e. ban on flavored cigarettes and outdoor tobacco advertising near schools); requirement for stronger health warnings on tobacco products; disclosure of the contents of tobacco products, as well as changes in products and research about their health effects; ban on use of terms such as “light” and “low-tar”; strict regulation of health-related claims about tobacco products; permission granted to the FDA to reduce the nicotine in cigarettes and to make changes in tobacco products.