The New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) is zeroing in on tobacco retailer enforcement, reaching a $1 million milestone in civil penalties collected since March 1, according to the agency.
On Tuesday a DCWP inspector, who asked not to be named to ensure he is not recognized during future inspections, made a surprise visit to a newsstand inside of 199 Water Street. Posing as a customer, the inspector requested flavored E-cigarettes from the Lower Manhattan clerk before revealing his official title.
“I was asking for flavored E-cigarettes, which are not allowed in New York City because it was determined that those flavors were generally marketed towards children,” the inspector told amNewYork Metro.
Examining everything from tobacco products to the expiration date of medication, the inspector found a violation in plastic straws—something that, according to the inspector, should be stored behind the counter since they are not biodegradable.
This latest inspection comes amidst a ramped-up enforcement effort by the DCWP to cut down on illicit business dealings in everything from newsstands to supermarkets and even hair salons, with a special emphasis being placed to protect children from harmful products. Yet with the rise in thefts and robberies in storefronts like smoke shops, some businesses have started housing weapons, and inspectors face danger when carrying out their duties.
“It’s part of the job, it’s a risk that we face with every inspection, because it’s really unknown whether the business will be cordial or there’ll be very aggressive towards us,” the inspector explained. “The number one rule in this job is you have to look out for your own personal safety. And if you ever are menaced by any stretch, you definitely have to call 911 to protect yourself.
Still the city agency says it is undeterred, doubling down on inspections and pledging to hold violators accountable. Since March 1 this year, DCWP reported that they shut down over 50 unlicensed smoke shops, collecting more than $1,000,000 in penalties. They also state that tobacco retailers have dropped thanks to cigarette prices rising from $10.50 in 2017 to $13, creating a higher minimum price for all other tobacco products.
DCWP Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga charged that these inspections have only become more important since the legalization of recreational cannabis to ensure the public, and especially children, are kept safe.
“As a mother of two growing children and knowing the dangers that addictive nicotine products pose for our kids, I understand the concerns when an illegal smoke shop pops up in the neighborhood. At DCWP, we take seriously our role in protecting the health and safety of our neighbors in my community—and yours. We strive to build a culture of compliance with our city’s laws, but we will not hesitate to take action against a business illegally selling tobacco and nicotine products,” Mayuga said.