MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

New York City Greets the New Year With a Host of New Nanny-State Rules

Styrofoam bans, cigarette restrictions, and Uber taxes are just some of the regulations New Yorkers will have to contend with in 2019.

Catalin205/Dreamstime.comCatalin205/Dreamstime.comNew Yorkers began 2019 with a little less freedom than they had at the end of 2018, thanks to a raft of new laws targeting everything from selling cigarettes in pharmacies to drinking your coffee out of a foam cup.

Let's start with the cigarettes.

As part of an anti-smoking package passed in 2017, New York City adopted a rule that prohibits both drug stores and grocers with pharmacy sections from selling tobacco products of any kind. That law goes into effect this month.

"The tobacco-free pharmacy law is a public health victory," argues the city's health commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot. "It builds on New York City's commitment to reduce the number of smokers in our city so New Yorkers can live longer, healthier lives."

That prior commitment Barbot references include bans on smoking (and vaping) in public housing, bars, restaurants, offices, and city parks. The city also has some of the highest tobacco taxes in the nation, and since June of last year it has set a minimum price of $13 for a pack of cigarettes.

A proposed, but failed, piece of city legislation from 2017 would have even banned people from smoking while walking.

The march of anti-smoking legislation has coincided with a fall in the rate of adults smoking. In 2011, some 16 percent of New Yorkers smoked, compared to 19 percent of Americans as whole. In 2016, that rate had fallen to 11 percent in New York City, and 15 percent nationally. How much of that decline is the result of anti-smoking legislation is an open question.

What is not an open question is that New York's tobacco taxes and minimum prices have led to a thriving black market. According to one estimate from the Tax Foundation, 56 percent of cigarettes consumed in New York state are smuggled in from lower-taxed jurisdictions.

That suggests that plenty of the city's smokers are not quitting their habit so much as spending more time and money satisfying it. Chances are good a ban on pharmacy sales will have a similiar effect, forcing smokers to go out of their way to buy cigarettes but not fundamentally changing their desire to smoke.

Unfortunately, going out of your way to buy cigarettes—or anything else—will also probably cost more, thanks to a new fee on Uber and Lyft rides.

Last year the state legislature approved a $2.75 surcharge on all individual rides performed by ridesharing services in central and lower Manhattan. Traditional cab rides are hit with a $2.50 fee, while pooled rides taken on services like Uber Pool and Lyft Line will see an additional $.75 charge. The fees are supposed to reduce congestion on city streets, with the revenue generated earmarked for funding New York City's public transit system.

Congestion pricing—in which drivers are charged a fee for the road space they take up—is not necessarily a bad idea. But the fact that New York's law selectively applies them to for-hire rides and charges a slightly lower rate to cabs diminishes its effectiveness at combating traffic. It also puts a heavier burden on one specific, politically disfavored type of transportation that New Yorkers had been increasingly adopting as an alternative to traditional public transit and yellow cabs.

The new fee was supposed to take effect on January 1, but has been held up thanks to a legal challenge from cab drivers.

Fortunately for the city's nannies, another petty piece of legislation held up for a legal challenge has finally got court-approval to go into effect: a ban on polystyrene foam containers.

This ban has its origins in a 2013 law that banned all such foam containers deemed unrecyclable. In late 2014, the city's sanitation commissioner ruled there was no possible way polystyrene materials could be recycled, meaning the stuff had to go.

The decision was quickly greeted with a lawsuit from restaurants that depend on the cheap foam containers. They argued that polystyrene was indeed recyclable. The courts ultimately rejected this challenge in June 2018, allowing the city's prohibition on everything from foam coffee cups to packaging peanuts to go into effect at the start of 2019. Fines for selling, distributing, or even possessing banned foam items range from $250 to $1,000, depending on the number of offenses.

Restaurants will have the next six months to come into compliance with the new law. But the additional costs of purchasing non-polystyrene products will raise costs for some businesses and may kill off some on the margins.

Increasing prices and decreasing choices are the common threads running through all these new rules. And while New Yorkers—and residents of large American cities in general—are no strangers to petty nanny-state impositions, these restrictions diminish one of the primary benefits of living in cities: an abundance of choice and convenience.

Photo Credit: Catalin205/Dreamstime.com

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    The citizens of NYC keep electing and re-electing the politicians who promote these regulations; couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of pussy hats.

  • SimonP||

    The Republicans have always been free to offer up someone who isn't a racist, corrupt, incompetent boob from Staten Island. They just can't seem to find good candidates.

  • Agammamon||

    Why would they need to offer up one of those - the Democrats in NY never have.

  • Still Curmudgeoned (Nunya)||

    Ah, Simon. Our resident vascillant. You'll argue that you are steadfast and resolute, but the only arguments you ever provide equate to a child declaring that the other kid started it.

    You responded with a ridiculous comparison that is entirely unfounded. But don't let the pointed remark that Quo made stand in your way of emotional reaction.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Prediction for next year in Reason:

    As part of an anti-opiate anti-smoking package passed in 2019, New York City adopted a rule that prohibits both drug stores and grocers with pharmacy sections from selling opiates tobacco products of any kind. That law goes into effect this month.

  • Cyto||

    You have your finger on the pulse of the nation, that's for sure.

  • Anomalous||

    "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."
    - H. L. Mencken

  • Earth Skeptic||

    So, "democracy oppressed and sexually assaulted me"?

  • Still Curmudgeoned (Nunya)||

    Metaphorically, yes.

  • Cyto||

    So.... possessing polystyrene items, including packing peanuts, can get a fine of up to $1,000?

    Uh....

    I'm going to assume that they have a carve-out for consumers?

    Because getting a shipment from Itsy or Ebay that is packed in Styrofoam or peanuts and hence running afoul of the law would be bad, right?

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    I'm assuming (and probably shouldn't) that it's a fine on the person doing the packing. Which raises the question - what if the shipper is in another state?

  • Rat on a train||

    It doesn't apply to individuals. There are also exceptions including supplier packaging. Too bad. I have some leftover cups I could have bundled with plastic straws and shipped to city offices.

  • Hank Phillips||

    There are econazi Nuremberg-law-approved packing peanuts made of starch. The trick is to force people to pay for them at gunpoint, and mebbe add a few million tonnes of insecticide. Child's play!

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    If you are referring to this:


    Fortunately for the city's nannies, another petty piece of legislation held up for a legal challenge has finally got court-approval to go into effect: a ban on polystyrene foam containers.

    The last time I checked, packing peanuts weren't containers.

  • A Lady of Reason||

    Well, at least it's not California! Yet...
    https://aladyofreason.wordpress.com/

  • Crusty Juggler||

    The concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there's nothing some things you can't do...

  • BYODB||


    As part of an anti-smoking package passed in 2017, New York City adopted a rule that prohibits both drug stores and grocers with pharmacy sections from selling tobacco products of any kind.


    So it's illegal to sell, say, a nicotine inhaler or nicotine patches in the pharmacy as well? Oh, wait, I forgot that only ecigarettes are that magical type of nicotine product that gets hit with cigarette regulations.

  • Cyto||

    It looks like a cigarette! People actually puff, just like cigarettes! That's why it is evil! In fact, it is even worse than smoking!

    (actual opinions expressed by actual anti-smoking activists)

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Anti-smoking Crusaders make some amazingly deranged assertions. I had one tell me that I didn't like the taste of cigar smoke, I only thought I did. I asked him if he could explain the difference.

    I have to wonder what would happen if, tomorrow, cures for emphasema and cancer that were as cheap and acesabpe as aspirin suddenly appeared.

  • Zeb||

    Well, at least they are finally honest about the smoking restrictions. It's not about the health of bystanders, it doesn't even have to make any sense. Anything that makes smoking more expensive or inconvenient is a win.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "The tobacco-free pharmacy law is a public health victory," argues the city's health commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot. "It builds on New York City's commitment to reduce the number of smokers in our city so New Yorkers can live longer, healthier lives."

    Did he pass this by the revenue department?

  • Zeb||

    Maybe some New Yorkers don't want to live longer, healthier lives.

  • wareagle||

    those who do often become ex-New Yorkers.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    By definition.

  • IceTrey||

    "It builds on New York City's commitment to reduce the number of smokers in our city so New Yorkers can live longer, healthier lives."
    Except of course fat guys who sell loosies who will be chocked to death on the street.

  • new yorker by avocation||

    new yorkers (city residents) already live longer, healthier lives than the average american. and that's even WITH all the guys selling loosies factored in.

    p.s.: totally not okay with the police state killing "expendible" people. shouldn't have to add, but i will, for clarity.

  • Uncle Jay||

    New York City is leading the way for a much needed nanny state because there isn't one American that can be called an adult.
    We're all children incapable of making prudent decisions for ourselves, find and keep a job, not engage in criminal activity, change our diapers, feed us, find our way home by ourselves, peeing on winos, defecating on other people's doorsteps or stealing cupcakes from the poor and oppressed.
    We should all give a big "thank you" to the NYC city fathers to help us get through our meaningless lives.

  • new yorker by avocation||

    you just described most of the idiots who move to new york and half of those who were born here. how different are the statistics in the rest of the country?

    we have a nanny state because people's parents didn't raise them right and the grown ups around here are tired of picking up everyone else's dirty socks.

  • Benitacanova||

    Dr. Oxiris Barbot. That's straight out of James Bond.

  • Cyto||

    Meanwhile, I was in the pharmacy section of the Wal-Mart in Duluth MN. the other day, looking for children's ibuprofen. In the kid's medicine section they had a few brands I wasn't familiar with. They were "fast acting" and all of the adjectives you want for a kids medicine.... and then I looked closer. One of them had a little exclamatory bubble to the side that said "homeopathic!"

    WHAT!?!

    Sold right along side the real medicine, a bunch of homeopathic stuff, priced and packaged in exactly the same way as the regular remedies. No ordinary parent would have been able to tell the difference. So they could pay 9 bucks for the privilege of NOT treating their child's 105 degree fever.

    I had to get some pseudoephedrine from behind the counter (thanks, drug warriors), so I took the opportunity to discuss it with the (very attractive, young) pharmacist. She rolled her eyes and said she didn't agree with putting it out there either.

    But this kind of thing is way, way worse than selling vaping products at the convenience store where they also sell Tylenol. At least when you buy a Juul refill, you know exactly what you are paying for.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    To some people, their progressive street cred matters more than their kid's life.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Hey, my vegan infant was doing just fine on soy milk until it shriveled up and died.

  • new yorker by avocation||

    anyone who knows anything about nutrition knows that a vegan diet is unnatural as it doesn't provide all essential nutrients.

    denial ain't just a river in egypt.

  • Robert||

    If it didn't sell, it wouldn't be out there. Consider all the users who get results they can't tell the difference between.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    One of my favorite nasty ironies is that the same ninnies who preach 'alternative medicine' will happily cuss out the Chinese for supporting the market for rhino horn in 'traditional Chinese medicine'.

  • new yorker by avocation||

    kind of reminds me of all those "bible based" christians who won't love thy neighbor, etc...

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    No ordinary parent would have been able to tell the difference.

    Ordinary parents aren't literate?

  • Zeb||

    A lot of people don't know that "homeopathic" means "bullshit".

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    What it means is distilled water that vaguely remembers once having come in contact with some active ingredient.

  • Rockabilly||

    Comrade Dr. Oxiris Barbot, will you ban me from smoking the weed?

    Mine is untaxed and unregulated !!!!

    #Smokin'Weed

  • NoVaNick||

    Mine is untaxed and unregulated !!!!

    Give it time-the progtards have been quiet about weed because they don't want to alienate the youths and appear too square, but once it is commercially available everywhere and companies are making money off it, you can bet it will be taxed and regulated.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Something about NY residents and frogs in a pan?

  • Fats of Fury||

    So why is it , you know, they're just not banning the complete sales of tobacco products, you know.

  • SimonP||

    I must have missed Reason's coverage of NYC's decriminalization of so-called "quality of life" crimes and marijuana possession. Hm...

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    Simonp here to remind us that our betters in government really do know what's best for us rubes.

  • Agammamon||

    New York City adopted a rule that prohibits both drug stores and grocers with pharmacy sections from selling tobacco products of any kind. That law goes into effect this month.


    What's going to be hilarious is next year they'll sponsor a bill to combat the lack of access to OTC and prescription medication in all those 'health deserts' that will require all stores in certain places to have a pharmacy section because everyone shut theirs down so they could keep selling cigarettes.
  • new yorker by avocation||

    ding ding ding, we have a winner!

    the law of unintended (unanticipated) consequences is in full force and effect.

  • librich||

    Science lowered the boom on cigarettes 70 years ago. What kind of an idiot would be smoking at this late date? Ditto for seat belts, motorcycle helmets, guns, heroin, you name it. I hate the nanny-staters, but the reason they're winning is that Americans are, in fact, irresponsible kids who need the government to look after them. Like the schoolteacher says, "Johnny is ruining things for the rest of you."

  • NoVaNick||

    Smoking was in decline for years before the grand nanny Bloomberg came along, and life expectancy was going up for everyone, not just NYers, until about 2014, then it started to decline...What happened? Did smoking suddenly spike? Were too many people guzzling Big Gulps? No, but a company called Purdue Pharma, with the blessing of the FDA and AMA, saturated the market with opioids, leading to an addiction an overdose epidemic. Its owners, the Sackler Family, are also major benefactors to many NYC institutions and anti-tobacco research. So there you have it-its the well connected and their pals in government who are ruining things for the rest of us. But we all know that shit flows downhill.

  • DesigNate||

    Mmmm, taste the condescension.

    Punishing everyone else because Johnny is being a douchebag doesn't make you an adult. You're just avoiding having to punish Johnny individually.

  • new yorker by avocation||

    you don't live here, work here, pay taxes here.
    i do.
    your opinion is marginally relevant, at best.
    in a city with 30+% poverty and comparable rates of literacy (and that's the americans,) and a federal mandate that no human be denied medical treatment, i, as a legal nyc resident, am legally bound by order of the US congress to pay for treating the effects of roger's 8-big-gulp-a-day habit.

    what's a lady of liberty to do?

    tax that sugar-sucking-sob! (no. but yes. and here's why.) it works.
    smoking has gone down since the smoking ban. all my ex-smoking friends cited cost (monetary and social) as the reason they quit.

    good.

    attacking demand at the end-user is much easier (and cheaper) than any solution to the real, underlying problems.

    how can we stop federal subsidies to big ag's darlings, corn and sugar? i don't know, but i can tell you that "draining the swamp" didn't do it.

    until then, i say "tax away."
    p.s.: if you don't agree with public health initiatives, i'd like to remind you that NYC had no response to the nascent AIDS crisis and that worked out just fine.

  • DesigNate||

    If you don't want to do that, you could always move out of that nanny state.

  • VinniUSMC||

    Why would you even suggest that this monumental douchebag move and pollute some other city/state with his imbecilic, sophomoric nanny-state douchbaggery?

    Why do you hate us?

    He doesn't want to leave the nanny state, how else would he know what is good for him?

  • DenverJ||

    Huh. My federal tax dollars help pay to educate your children, and teaching them any religion undermines the rationality I'm paying to install in their heads.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Get up off of your knees.

  • CE||

    taxes on sugar laden Big Gulps for the poor, but no taxes on sugar laden lattes for the elite.

    taxes for thee but not for me.

  • NoVaNick||

    bans on smoking (and vaping) in public housing

    How do they plan to enforce a vaping ban in public housing? Maybe you can bust someone for vaping in a hallway or lounge, but in their own apartment? Unless they are doing it in front of a window, how will anyone know? Unlike smoking, it creates very little odor, and doesn't linger at all.

  • CE||

    The fees [on Uber and Lyft] are supposed to reduce congestion on city streets,

    by giving people more reason to drive drunk?

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online