Legislation Roundup: New York City Mulls Sidewalk Smoking Ban, Hawaii Closer to Cigar Tax Relief

Legislation Roundup: New York City Mulls Sidewalk Smoking Ban, Hawaii Closer to Cigar Tax Relief

Tax relief for premium cigars advances in Hawaii, Connecticut considers raising its smoking age, and one New York City council member wants to ban smoking while walking in the Big Apple. The sales tax on tobacco could be going up in Kansas and Rhode Island, but efforts to raise the smoking age have been effectively killed in New Hampshire and Florida, joining four other states that also failed to pass similar legislation. Here what’s going on with cigar and tobacco legislation around the country.


Smoking Bans

New York City: Smoking is already illegal in New York City’s public parks, but one council member wants to extend the ban to the city’s sidewalks as well. Peter A. Koo, a Democrat representing the city’s 20th district, introduced a bill this week that would “prohibit individuals from smoking while walking on sidewalks under the jurisdiction of the department of transportation and several locations under the jurisdiction of the department of parks and recreation.”

“You can smoke. You can walk. But don’t do both together,” Koo told CBS New York. The proposal specifically targets smoking while walking; stationary smokers will still be allowed to light up. 

If the bill becomes law, it will amend the section of the New York City Administrative Code that prohibits smoking in parks and other public recreational areas. 

Cigar Taxes

Hawaii: A bill that seeks to impose a 50-cent tax cap on large cigars passed the Senate earlier this month and the committee on House Health and Human Services recommend the bill pass this week. Currently, the tax rate on large cigars in Hawaii is 50 percent of the wholesale price. If this measure passes, most premium cigars will receive considerable tax relief.

Kansas: In February, lawmakers in Kansas introduced a bill that would raise taxes on the wholesale price of tobacco products from 10 percent to 65 percent. The bill was referred to the Committee on Assessment and Taxation and was scheduled for a hearing yesterday.

Rhode Island: Gov. Gina Raimondo’s budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year includes language that would raise the tax cap on cigars from 50 cents to 80 cents. The bill was introduced in January and has been under review in the House Finance committee ever since. 

Smoking Age

Connecticut: A bill that would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 was introduced in February. It was sent to the Joint Committee on Public Health and was schedule for a hearing last Tuesday.

New Hampshire: The push to raise the smoking age in New Hampshire will likely die in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, which held a hearing on March 13, but failed to advance the bill further.

Florida: Both the House and Senate introduced bills to bring the smoking age to 21 in the state of Florida, but were ultimately unsuccessful. Both bills were introduced in September and were “indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration” after failing to advance through subcommittees.