The nation’s priciest cigarettes are about to get even more expensive.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday said he wants to increase the minimum price of a pack of smokes to $13, a $2.50 hike from the current base price. He said his goal is to reduce the number of smokers in the city by 160,000 over the next three years.
“Big tobacco is enemy number one,” he said in a press release announcing the initiative.
The mayor also indicated he would seek to cap and license the number of cigarette sellers, who far outnumber other types of retailers in the city.
At the current price of $10.44 a pack, New York state’s cigarettes are already the most expensive in the country, followed by those in Connecticut, Hawaii and Alaska.
At $13, a pack in New York would cost triple one in North Dakota, the state where smokes are cheapest. It would be more expensive than a city sandwich or a typical cocktail.
The Big Apple’s assault on public smoking goes back to de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, who banned smoking in bars, restaurants and public parks. In 2003, when the restaurant smoking ban kicked in, about 18 percent of city residents smoked; today, 14 percent do.
But high taxes on cigarettes have also created an epidemic of smuggling as unscrupulous distributors seek to make a profit. Crain’s New York found that fully half of the city’s cigarettes are illegal, meaning their sellers avoid paying state or city taxes (or both).