New York’s efforts to snuff out smoking

A man smoking a cigarette.
A man smoking a cigarette.
Vladimir Konstantinov/Shutterstock

New York’s efforts to snuff out smoking

Cuomo’s flavored e-cigarette ban is the latest in the war on lighting up.
September 16, 2019

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is determined to extinguish flavored e-cigarettes in New York.

On Sunday, he announced an emergency executive action to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, in light of recent mysterious ailments and deaths across the country connected to vaping. It’s reported that 64 cases of lung disease due to vaping have occured in New York alone.

Though it’s not yet clear what’s causing the rash of illnesses – whether it’s from products like flavored e-cigarettes or from users vaping chemicals mixed with illegally obtained marijuana – state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker and the state’s Public Health and Health Planning Council will be meeting this week to ban flavored e-cigarettes.

“New York is confronting this crisis head on and today we are taking another nation-leading step to combat a public health emergency,” Cuomo said Sunday. “Manufacturers of fruit and candy-flavored e-cigarettes are intentionally and recklessly targeting young people, and today we’re taking action to put an end to it.”

Cuomo’s move to ban flavored tobacco products may seem like a knee-jerk reaction, but it’s completely in alignment with New York’s efforts over the years to rid the state of tobacco products. From New York City’s ban on smoking in bars and restaurants in 2002 to the rise of the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 statewide in 2018, New York has made its feelings on tobacco loud and clear.

The reason for New York’s fixation? Health, of course. By decreasing New Yorkers’ secondhand smoke exposure and making it more difficult to buy or smoke cigarettes, the state hopes to reduce the number of smoking-related deaths per year – currently estimated around 12,000 in New York alone. Here’s a timeline of New York’s smoking restrictions to get you more acquainted with the city and state’s efforts to kick the habit:

1987: New York imposes public smoking regulations

The state Public Health Council limited smoking in public places, such as offices with more than two employees and most restaurants (those with more than 50 seats).

2002: Smoking banned in bars and restaurants in New York City

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a law that banned all smoking in bars and restaurants – with a few exceptions, like cigar bars. The city had banned most smoking in restaurants in 1995, but still allowed it in the bar areas of restaurants.

2002: Increased tobacco taxation begins in New York City

The same year as the New York City bar and restaurant smoking ban, both the city and state increased taxes on cigarettes, which raised the price 32% from $5.20 to $6.85 a pack. Cigarettes in New York City had the highest combined city and state tax in the United States at the time.

2003: Smoking banned in offices, bars and restaurants statewide

The introduction of the state Clean Indoor Air Act made it illegal to smoke in offices, on public transportation, and in bars and restaurants, among other locations, to minimize secondhand smoke exposure. In 2017, the act was amended to include the prohibition of e-cigarettes and vaping products as well.

2011: New York City bans smoking in public

Bloomberg passed another measure to ban smoking in public spaces like parks, beaches, pools, recreation centers and various pedestrian plazas in New York City.

2013: New York City raises the age to purchase tobacco products

The New York City Council passed a bill to raise the legal age required to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. Officials said that the younger people are when they begin smoking, the more likely they are to become addicted to tobacco.

2018: Price minimums introduced for tobacco products

Mandatory price minimums for tobacco products went into effect, forcing tobacco vendors to raise the prices of their products. Now, cigarettes must be sold at a minimum of $13 per pack – and vendors must apply for an electronic cigarette retail dealer license if they want to sell any type of vaping product.

2019: State raises the smoking age to 21

In July, Cuomo signed legislation to raise the legal tobacco smoking age from 18 to 21 throughout the state, which will go into effect in November. The measure includes all tobacco products as well as vaping products and e-cigarettes. New York and 17 other states have passed laws to raise the legal smoking age to 21.

2019: Flavored tobacco products banned

Cuomo announced a move to ban flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products statewide, amid a recent rise in vaping-related illnesses and deaths that have medical professionals stumped. The New York City Council had already been pushing for a ban on these products. Concerns over the sale of these products escalated after recent reports revealed a heavy spike in children using flavored tobacco and vaping products in the city.

Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
is a staff reporter at City & State.