$13 a pack? NYC mayor wants highest cigarette prices in US

(Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing for the nation’s biggest city to also be the country’s priciest spot to buy a pack of smokes.

De Blasio is backing an effort to raise the price of a pack of cigarettes from $10.50 to $13, which he says would be the nation’s highest.

The Democrat announced his support Wednesday for a series of legislative proposals designed to drastically cut tobacco use in the city by the year 2020. De Blasio says his goal is to reduce the number of smokers by 160,000. An estimated 900,000 New York City residents currently smoke.

“What we’re here today talking about is saving lives,” said Dr. Mary T. Bassett, the city’s health commissioner, who appeared with the mayor at offices of the American Heart Association. “We want to make it easier to quit and harder to smoke.”

The proposals are set for hearings later this month.

The city council also will consider legislation to gradually reduce by half the number of licenses issued to retailers to sell tobacco products. Philadelphia and San Francisco have similar licensing restrictions.

An American Cancer Society study found that 8,992 retail outlets were licensed to sell tobacco in New York as of October, and about a third of those were within 500 feet of a school.

Other proposals would set minimum prices and create taxes on smokeless tobacco and small cigars, and require sellers of electronic cigarettes to obtain licenses.

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