Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in New York. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in New York calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Raise the age of sale for tobacco products to 21;
- Restore funding to New York's Tobacco Control Program; and
- Expand the amount of smokefree spaces in New York.
2017 was an interesting year for tobacco control in New York State. The state Senate recognized the necessity to close the "loop-hole" and joined the Assembly in voting to include electronic cigarettes in the state Clean Indoor Air Act. The bill was then signed into law by Governor Cuomo in October. This means that the use of electronic cigarettes are now be prohibited indoors, like traditional smoked tobacco products. A bill was also passed to require the registration of electronic cigarette vendors with the Department of Taxation and Finance. This bill was vetoed by the Governor. On the budget side, this year we saw level-funding for tobacco control at $39.3 million and no new tobacco taxes enacted.
There continued to be significant progress on the local level on Tobacco 21 legislation. We saw many counties pass legislation which prohibits the sale of tobacco to those under the age of 21, and now more than 50 percent of New Yorkers are now covered by local Tobacco 21 laws. Additionally, we saw the passage of a comprehensive package of tobacco control legislation in New York City, which among other things, prohibited the sale of tobacco in pharmacies, reduced the number of tobacco licenses available to retailers, increased the minimum price of tobacco products and expanded smokefree housing.
Our local tobacco coalitions, funded by the state Department of Health, continue to educate communities about the importance of limiting point of sale advertising by restricting the number, location and/or type of retailers that sell tobacco products. As a result of these efforts, Rockland County recently became the first county in New York to prohibit the sale of tobacco in pharmacies. Other initiatives include working with communities to develop tobacco free outdoor policies and smoke free multi-unit housing.
In 2018, it is imperative that the state increase funding for the state tobacco control program. The lack of funding has had a direct impact on the ability to fight tobacco use disparities that continue to exist in certain areas and populations across our state. Increased funding will allow for interventions targeted to specific populations that have smoking rates that are double or triple the rest of the population.
The American Lung Association in New York will also push for legislation that prohibits the sale of tobacco products to those under age 21. Additionally, we will continue to pursue comprehensive smokefree laws to expand the number of smokefree spaces in New York. New York has a long history of leading on tobacco control efforts, it is time for decision-makers to take decisive action to save lives. The status quo will not suffice.