The Corner

Law & the Courts

De Blasio’s Anti-Tobacco Jihad Continues

Earlier this week, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio reminded New Yorkers that in his view the authority of the state  knows very few limits.

Bloomberg:

New York boosted the minimum price of a pack of cigarettes by 24 percent to $13 and placed a cap on the number of tobacco sellers, part of the city’s biggest crackdown on smoking in more than a decade.

The anti-tobacco moves came in the form of a seven-point package of laws that Mayor Bill de Blasio signed Monday. The measures create a retail license fee for sellers of electronic cigarettes and almost double the licensing fee for tobacco retailers to $200. The city is also requiring all apartment buildings of three or more units to create explicit smoking policies, while banning smoking in all common areas.

Pharmacies will be prohibited from selling tobacco as their licenses begin to expire in 2018. The move will affect drug stores like Walgreens and Duane Reade that still sell cigarettes.

The laws will raise the minimum price of a cigarette pack to $13 from $10.50, and reduce the number of stores selling tobacco by 50 percent through attrition. No new tobacco retail dealer licenses will be issued in community districts until the total decreases to below the cap. The city’s 8,300 current tobacco retailers may retain their licenses, unless they are pharmacies. Health officials estimate the law could reduce by 40 percent the number of tobacco sellers citywide within 10 years.

“The single most important thing you can do for your health is to stop smoking,” said Health Commissioner Mary Bassett. “As a former smoker, I know how hard it is to quit. That’s why these laws are so important — they will make it easier for New Yorkers to quit smoking or never start.”

The single most important thing to note about Bassett is that she is an ex-smoker. She may or may not have found it difficult to give up smoking (we’ll have to trust her on that), but she wanted to give it up and she did give it up. She made the choice for herself. Well done! De Blasio’s patronizing, bullying and intrusive new laws are a statement that, in his view, Bassett is a cut above many of her fellow citizens. She was able to decide for herself what others—those weaklings— cannot be trusted to do: Those lesser folk must therefore be bullied into doing what is (medically, certainly) the right thing to do. As for those smokers who have consciously weighed the risks and wish to carry on, well, that’s too bad. They must be inconvenienced too – as  must those  who simply enjoy the occasional cigarette or cigar.

The restrictions on retailers (“purveyors of death” apparently) are a restraint of trade and a move against consumer choice. Coupled with the dramatic increases in cigarette prices (they will be the highest in the nation) they are a gift to the black market.  The New York Post reports that contraband (including ‘loosies’)  already accounts for an estimated 60 percent of the city’s cigarette sales.

And laying down the law on what goes on in private apartment blocks shows no respect for private property.

As for the move against e-cigarettes, not de Blasio’s first, it demonstrates nothing more than the mayor’s contempt for #science and his support for cancer (or perhaps tobacco tax revenues have a little something to do with it).

Here’s something from the Guardian, no enemy of the nanny state, yesterday:

[T]largest study yet undertaken of young people’s use of e-cigarettes and smoking in the UK concludes that fears of e-cigarettes becoming a gateway to tobacco for young people are largely unfounded. The study, which was based on five separate surveys gathering data from 2015 to 2017, is from a collaboration including experts from Public Health England.

A tenth to a fifth of 11- to 16-year-olds had tried e-cigarettes, but only 3% or less used them regularly and those were mostly already tobacco smokers. Among young people who have never smoked, regular use of e-cigarettes was negligible, say the authors, at between only 0.1% and 0.5%.

“This pattern was consistent across different surveys from around the UK and suggests that, for now, experimentation with e-cigarettes does not necessarily translate into regular use, particularly among never smokers,” say the authors of the study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Lead author Linda Bauld, professor of health policy at the University of Stirling, said: “Recent studies have generated alarming headlines that e-cigarettes are leading to smoking. Our analysis of the latest surveys from all parts of the United Kingdom, involving thousands of teenagers shows clearly that for those teens who don’t smoke, e-cig experimentation is simply not translating into regular use.

“Our study also shows that smoking rates in young people are continuing to decline.”

… The harm to health of e-cigarettes is tiny compared to that of tobacco, she said. A recent study by the Royal College of Physicians, in which she was involved, found that e-cigarettes carried only about 5% of the risks of smoking. Another found they had about 1% of the cancer risk.

Not a gateway, in other words, but a much safer alternative.

But #science denier Bill De Blasio does not seem to care.

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