City Continues Push in Crackdown Against Illegal Smoke Shops

NYC Sheriff Anthony Miranda mails out letters to the owners and landlords of 50 buildings to notify them of their possibly legal liabilities for keeping tenants who operate illegal smoke shops. Image Credit: New York City Sheriff’s Office/X – @NYCSHERIFF.

On November 27, 2023, Mayor Eric Adams announced the City’s latest efforts in the push against illegal smoke shops citywide. The New York City Sheriff’s Office Joint Compliance Task Force to Address Illegal Smoke contacts landlords and owners whose tenants have previously received violations for selling tobacco or cannabis products without a proper license. The task force consists of the Sheriff’s Office, the NYPD, and the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement. 

The task force sent letters to the owners and landlords of 50 buildings citywide to warn them that they could potentially be liable for their tenants’ unlicensed sale of tobacco or cannabis products. The letter warns landlords that they may be subject to injunctions and penalties of up to $1,000 per day. The letter also notifies landlords that the City can request that the landlord or owner initiate eviction actions against tenants who are engaging in illegal sales as authorized by Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law § 715(1), which requires landlords to initiate eviction proceedings of commercial tenants who are engaging in illegal business. 

The 50 locations have already been subject to $7 million in penalties, including the seizure of almost $4 million in illegal products and the issuance of over $3 million in civil penalties. The task force will continue to review previously issued violations and contact landlords to notify them about their compliance with the law. 

The letters from the task force are part of the City’s ongoing efforts to crack down on illegal smoke shops; last year, a joint task force between city agencies including the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, the NYPD, and the Sheriff’s Office conducted enforcement raids and actions against unlicensed sellers. That task force has issued over $63 million in penalties, including the seizure of approximately $23 million in illegal products. Earlier this year, the Law Department filed a federal lawsuit against several major distributors of flavored disposable e-cigarettes. 

This summer, the City Council passed Int. 1001-B, which holds landlords who knowingly lease their commercial spaces to be used for unlicensed tobacco or controlled substances sales. Through Int. 1001-B, landlords could face penalties of $5,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for subsequent violations. 

Mayor Adams stated, “Our administration is using every tool available to protect young people and all New Yorkers from dangerous, illegal cannabis and tobacco products, while sending a clear message that anyone helping these illegal, unlicensed shops spread throughout our communities will be held accountable. To support the emerging, legal cannabis market, we must go after the bad actors who are breaking the law. Our interagency task force is coming together to keep our communities safe.”

Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phillip Banks III stated, “This administration is taking a hard line cracking down on the proliferation of smoke shops illegally selling tobacco, vaping, and cannabis products across the city. While New York’s public safety agencies will continue to visit these establishments to ensure they are following the law, we are making it clear to landlords today that they have an important role to play in this process, and if illegal products are being sold on their property, they will be held accountable.”

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the Editor of CityLand and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)



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