Lung Association Issues 2007 State of Tobacco Control Report Card

New York State Not Making the Grade, Must do More to Halt Tobacco Use

(January 10, 2008)

The American Lung Associations of New York State and the City of New York today reacted with tempered enthusiasm toward New York State's grades in the annual American Lung Association State of Tobacco Control Report Card. New York maintained its second-place score in the nation, receiving A's in tobacco prevention and control spending, smokefree air, and youth access to tobacco products. However, it did not achieve coveted straight-A status due to a C in the cigarette tax category.

"Governor Spitzer and our State Legislature have an opportunity to move New York State to the front of the class this legislative session," said Michael Seilback, Senior Director of Public Policy & Advocacy. "By increasing the excise tax and fully funding tobacco control programs at federally recommended levels, New York would lead the nation in protective tobacco control policies and combat the devastating effects of tobacco-related illnesses."

The American Lung Association issues its State of Tobacco Control report annually, which grades the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in four key categories necessary to reducing tobacco-related diseases which claim the lives of more than 460,000 Americans each year. Just behind Maine, which received three A's and a B, New York received the following grades:

-- Tobacco Prevention and Control Spending: A

-- Cigarette Taxes: C

-- Smokefree Air: A

-- Youth Access to Tobacco Products: A

"A higher price for cigarettes will create an economic incentive for smokers to quit their deadly addiction, and at the same time will increase funding for tobacco control programs," continued Seilback. "Enacting an additional $1.50 in the state tobacco excise tax will have a measurable impact on public health."

Currently, the excise tax on cigarettes in New York State is $1.50 – placing 15 states ahead of New York. Across the nation, 9 states have a cigarette tax rate of $2.00 per pack or more. New York State last raised the excise tax in 2002 – since then, 43 states, DC and Puerto Rico have increased their cigarette tax rates more than 75 times. Raising the excise tax to $3.00 per pack would make New York State the national leader in tobacco taxation.

In New York City, an additional $1.50 cigarette tax makes the total tax $3.00 throughout the five boroughs. This tax, combined with a comprehensive law protecting citizens from secondhand smoke exposure and effective tobacco prevention and cessation programs, has significantly reduced the number of smokers. The city's adult smoking rates declined from 21.6 in 2002 to 17.5 in 2006, substantially below the national adult smoking rate of 20.9 percent. Altogether, New York City now has 240,000 fewer smokers than it had in 2002. Just last week Mayor Bloomberg announced that cigarette smoking among New York City teens has dropped by more than half over the past six years, from 17.6 percent in 2001 to 8.5 percent in 2007. The two-year period from 2005 to 2007 saw a decline of more than 20 percent, which far exceeds the national decline. The current rate is nearly two-thirds lower than the latest available national teen smoking rate of 23 percent.

"New York City serves as a case study of the positive results that effective and comprehensive tobacco control policies can produce, but with nearly 8,000 residents dying from smoking-related illnesses per year, there is still much more to be done," said Louise Vetter, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the City of New York. "We owe it to the more than a million residents in the five boroughs who are addicted to cigarettes to push for expanded cessation resources and more stringent measures to reduce access to this deadly product."

Although New York State received an A for the amount of funding provided to its tobacco prevention and cessation program, the amount spent on cessation programs still does not meet federally recommended levels. This past October, the Lung Association called on Governor Spitzer and the New York State Legislature to fully fund tobacco control programs at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended levels.

"Today's report reinforces the need to further increase New York's tobacco control spending," added Deborah Carioto, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of New York State. "Evidence-based tobacco prevention and cessation programs are proven to work -- and funding these programs now not only saves lives, but also saves future taxpayer dollars by helping to reduce the number of New Yorkers who smoke."

In 2006, New York State took a positive step forward by drastically increasing funding for the New York State Bureau of Tobacco Control & Prevention. Within New York's Tobacco Control Program are nineteen Cessation Centers statewide whose sole purpose is to assist healthcare professionals, tobacco users and interested members of the community.

For 2006, the CDC had recommended that New York State spend a minimum of $95.8 million. New York State spent $87.5 million in 2006 -- $8.3 million less than what was recommended on these critical programs. CDC's newly revised guidelines, announced in the 2007 Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs report, recommend that New York State spend a minimum of $155.1 million annually. The CDC estimates that if states funded their tobacco control programs at the recommended level of investment for 5 years, it would result in 5 million fewer smokers, nationally. This translates into millions of lives saved and billions of dollars in health care and other savings.

While New York received an A in both youth access to tobacco and smokefree air, there is still room for improvement in these categories. A recent study showed that approximately 168,000 youth in New York out of 1.6 million report having smoked in the past 30 days. The American Lung Associations in New York continued to work in 2007 on legislation to ban the sale and marketing of alcohol and candy-flavored cigarettes, which are designed to lure kids into smoking. Despite signing a settlement agreement with state Attorneys General in October 2006 prohibiting the marketing of candy, fruit, and alcohol-flavored cigarettes, RJ Reynolds violated the spirit of the agreement by introducing a new line of flavored cigarettes barely seven months later; survey data has shown that these products are favored by smokers aged 17 to 19.

Similarly, although New York passed its Smokefree Air Act in 2002, the act needs to be broadened and strengthened, including expanding the definition of smokefree environments to include dormitories at institutes of higher learning. On the local level, municipalities across the state have strengthened measures by enacting laws which limit smoking at locations including playgrounds, parks and beaches.

The American Lung Associations of New York State and the City of New York will continue to push Governor Spitzer and the New York State legislature to make saving lives a priority by increasing the excise tax and by funding vital, public health programs at the levels recommended by CDC. To that end, the Lung Associations are launching an E-Advocacy campaign today urging our State Legislators to enact an excise tax increase this legislative session.

On the national level, grades for federal issues - FDA regulation of tobacco products, cigarette excise tax, cession policies, and the international tobacco control treaty - still score only Ds and Fs. Congress, however, is poised to pass the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act to give the FDA oversight over tobacco products, legislation that will curb the marketing of cigarettes to children and teens.

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Since 1904, the American Lung Association of New York State has worked tirelessly to promote lung health and prevent lung disease across New York State. The premier lung health resource in New York State, the Lung Association helps to protect and educate over ten million New Yorkers across 57 counties. With the generous support of the public, the American Lung Association is "Improving life, one breath at a time." For more information about the American Lung Association of New York state or to support the work we do, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit us online at www.alanys.org.

Founded in 1902, the American Lung Association of the City of New York is a voluntary non-profit health organization dedicated to the fight against lung disease and the promotion of lung health through research, community education and advocacy. Lung diseases, such as asthma, emphysema, lung cancer and pneumonia, are the third leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for one in seven deaths. For more information about the work of the American Lung Association of the City of New York, please call 1-800-LUNG-USA or visit www.alany.org.

Editor's Note – The full State of Tobacco Control report, as well as New York's report card are available at www.alanys.org and www.alany.org.