Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged his support on Wednesday to a series of initiatives to cut tobacco use, proposing to raise the minimum price of a pack of cigarettes in New York City to $13 and vowing to sharply reduce, over time, the number of stores that may sell tobacco products.What could possibly go wrong? It's not as though anyone ever smuggled cigarettes or as though New York City had good transportation links to any other localities.
In 2002, when Mr. Bloomberg took office, 21.5 percent of adult New Yorkers smoked, according to the Health Department. As Mr. Bloomberg banned smoking in bars and restaurants and set a minimum price for cigarettes, the rate fell to 14 percent by 2012, and it has fluctuated since.Meanwhile, in the US as a whole in the same period, it fell from 22.5% to 18.1%. I grant that the rate of smoking fell faster in New York City than in the US as a whole, but the fact that it did fall in the US as a whole and the fact that the rate started out lower in New York City suggest that other factors were at work.