Tobacco Control Policies in NYS

New York is a leader in tobacco control policy development and implementation, with many strong and effective tobacco control policies in place at the state and local levels. State laws related to tobacco include:

High Taxes on Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products

New York has the highest state cigarette tax in the United States. In 2010, New York's cigarette excise tax increased to $4.35 per pack of 20 cigarettes or little cigars. The tax on moist snuff is $2.00 per ounce and the tax on cigars and other tobacco products is 75% of wholesale value. Localities may levy additional tobacco taxes with the approval of the state legislature. Currently, only New York City imposes a local tax on cigarettes at $1.50 per pack, bringing the combined state and local tax to $5.85, the highest in the nation.

Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act (ATUPA)

Enacted in 1992 and funded at $2.5 million in 1997, this law prohibits the sale of tobacco products to minors (under the age of 18). Amendments to ATUPA have clarified and expanded the definition of tobacco products, which include cigarettes, loose cigarettes, cigars, bidis, gutka, chewing tobacco, powdered tobacco, nicotine water, herbal cigarettes, shisha, smoking paraphernalia and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) such as e-cigarettes. Penalties for illegal sales to minors include fines, loss of license to sell lottery tickets and loss of license to sell tobacco products. Every licensed tobacco retailer is assessed annually for compliance with this law. The 2011-2012 compliance rate was 95.1 percent. Municipalities may establish a higher minimum age of sale. The minimum legal sale age (MLSA) for tobacco products in New York City and Suffolk, Albany, Schenectady, Chautauqua and Cortland counties is 21 years of age, and the MLSA in Nassau and Onondaga counties is 19 years of age.

Clean Indoor Air Act (CIAA)

Enacted in 1989 and last amended in 2013, the Clean Indoor Air Act (CIAA) prohibits smoking of tobacco (herbal cigarettes are exempted) in nearly all public and work places. Exemptions are allowed for cigar bars in existence prior to December 31, 2002 and for organizations that do not have employees. Municipalities may enact local laws that are stronger than state law. Rockland County prohibits smoking in motor vehicles when children under the age of 18 are present.

Smoking Prohibited on Hospitals and Residential Health Care Facilities Grounds

This amendment to an existing law prohibits smoking outdoors on the grounds of hospitals and residential health care facilities. Smoking is prohibited within 15 feet of a building entrance or exit and within 15 feet of the entrance to or exit from the grounds. Facilities are required to post signs alerting the public that smoking is prohibited and may face penalties for violating the law.

Smoking Prohibited at Playgrounds

This amendment to an existing law prohibits smoking at New York playgrounds (as defined by the law) between sunrise and sunset when anyone under the age of twelve is present. The law does not apply to New York City playgrounds, athletic fields, courts, or playgrounds and playground equipment constructed on one, two and three-family residential properties. County boards of health, county health districts or designated officials are responsible for enforcing the law.

Liquid Nicotine Sales and Packaging

Prohibits the sale of liquid nicotine to minors (under the age of 21 in New York City and Suffolk, Albany, Schenectady, Chautauqua and Cortland counties, under age 19 in Nassau and Onondaga counties and under 18 throughout the rest of the state). Businesses that sell liquid nicotine are required to have specific signage indicating that the sale of this product to minors is prohibited. All liquid nicotine is to be packaged in a child-resistant bottle designed to prevent accidental exposure. Violators are subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000.

Cigarette Fire Safety Act

Enacted in 2000 and implemented in 2004, the act requires manufacturers to certify that all cigarettes they offer for sale in New York meet a specific ignition propensity standard. New York State was the first jurisdiction in the world to establish such a requirement. Cigarette-caused fires and deaths have declined since the implementation of the law.

Placement of Tobacco Products in Retail Stores

New York law requires all tobacco products to be located within stores out of reach of consumers. Self-service displays are prohibited. Tobacco products must be located behind the counter or in a locked cabinet.

Registration and Licensing of Tobacco Retailers and Wholesalers

Every retail dealer of cigarettes or tobacco products in New York State and every owner or operator of vending machines that sell cigarettes or tobacco products must register with the Department of Taxation and Finance. As of July 2013, there were 21,947 registered tobacco retailers in New York State. Cigarette wholesalers, retailers and distributors also must be licensed. Municipalities may establish their own licensing requirements.

Shipping of Cigarettes

A 2002 New York State law made it illegal for common carriers such as FedEx®, UPS and DHL to ship cigarettes to New York addresses, except to an address licensed to sell cigarettes. The 2010 National Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act prohibits delivery of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco through the U.S. Postal Service. These laws work to curtail the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products over the Internet, and require Internet sellers to affix tax stamps and pay all federal, state, local or Tribal tobacco taxes.

Cigarette Marketing Standards Act (CMSA)

Enacted in 1985, the act prohibits the sale of cigarettes below cost and makes it illegal for retailers to intentionally avoid the collection or payment of taxes. The CMSA includes fines and penalties for violations.

In addition to these state laws, many organizations, businesses and municipalities have adopted binding or nonbinding policies and resolutions that prohibit smoking. These policies include prohibiting smoking in multi-unit housing complexes, banning smoking and tobacco use in outdoor spaces, prohibiting the acceptance of tobacco company funds or services, opposing retail (point of sale) tobacco marketing and advertising, and working to reduce the impact of adolescent exposure to smoking in movies and on the Internet.

For more information, visit the Public Health and Tobacco Policy Center.