Assemblymember Rajkumar’s ‘Operation Smokeout’ gains momentum: rallying for passage of ‘SMOKEOUT Act’ to combat illegal smoke shops in NYC

In a rally held in Manhattan, Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar joined fellow legislators, civic leaders and fellow advocates to help see the SMOKEOUT Act pass.
Photo courtesy the office of Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar

An ‘Operation Smokeout’ campaign spearheaded by Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar has brought multiple rallies across the city to advocate for passage of the “SMOKEOUT Act,” ahead of the bill’s anticipated success this month. 

Rajkumar, who represents District 38 in the New York State Assembly, introduced the SMOKEOUT Act early this year as the appearance of illegal smoke shops spiked across the city. Approval of the bill in Albany would allow law enforcement agencies from local municipalities in the city and state, such as the NYPD, to shutter and enforce strict punishments on smoke shops caught selling illegal cannabis products. 

In rallies held in both Manhattan and the Bronx, Rajkumar joined fellow legislators, civic leaders and fellow advocates to help encourage the passage of the SMOKEOUT Act. 

Once the proposed bill is enacted, and provided Mayor Eric Adams keeps true to his promise, a robust law enforcement initiative is slated to commence, targeting the eradication of illegal smoke shops within 30 days following the bill’s ratification. This decisive action is anticipated to curb the re-emergence of unlawfully operating smoke shops. Rajkumar insists the bill’s passage is vital to solving the city’s problem. 

“We are asking that the SMOKEOUT Act be incorporated into the State budget so we can do what all New Yorkers know is right and shut down these illegal cannabis shops once and for all,” said Rajkumar during her rally in Times Square on Thursday, Mar. 28. 

Times Square Alliance President Tom Harris, sharing his support at the Thursday rally, welcomed Rajkumar to the Manhattan center place. The Times Square Alliance continues to advocate for the bill’s passage, according to Rajkumar. Last year, 30% of retail openings in Times Square were illegal smoke shops, her office shared. 

Joining the assemblywoman’s rally were City Council Member Gale Brewer, East Midtown Partnership President Rob Byrnes, Garment District Alliance President Barbara A. Blair and Edgardo R. Marrero from the New York State Department of Health.

Marrero, director of operations at DOH shared public health concerns over the rise in illegal smoke shops. He said the proliferation of illegal shops undermined the legalization of cannabis and caused problematic drug use in some neighborhoods. 

“These illegal shops are acting just like the thug drug dealer on the corner. They replaced the drug dealers by opening stores and operating in full view, and they are putting our children and our families and our communities at risk,” Marrero said. “They are a scourge on our communities, not just in Times Square but in every part of the City. So we call on Governor Hochul and the entire Assembly to pass and sign the SMOKEOUT Act,” 

Later in the week, on Saturday, Mar. 30, Rajkumar joined legislative supporters in the Bronx, where SMOKEOUT Act co-sponsor Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, and civic leaders spoke of the harm of illegal smoke shops in his district.  

Francisco Marte, the president of The Bodega and Small Business Association of New York spoke of how smoke shops bring unwanted businesses to the neighborhood and cause safety concerns to residents.

“We can now see in every neighborhood they are opening those smoke shops.” said Marte also indicating that they would sell to minors without having any regulation.

“They just want to make money off our kids. So we need this SMOKEOUT to be approved,” Marte said. 

Rajkumar continues to gain support for her SMOKEOUT Act as she enters April. The “Operation: SMOKEOUT” campaign will continue to bring rallies to different communities in the coming days, according to Rajkumar’s office.