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New York State Sends Mixed Signals on Tobacco Use Finds New American Lung Association Report

2018 ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report finds New York State lawmakers must do more to protect youth from tobacco use, ensure all Americans benefit from progress

(January 24, 2018) - NEW YORK

For more information please contact:

Jennifer Solomon
[email protected]
(516) 680-8927

The American Lung Association’s 2018 “State of Tobacco Control” shows New York State earned mixed grades on its tobacco policies. The 16th annual report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and finds that while New York has taken significant steps to reduce tobacco use, including the recent inclusion of electronic cigarettes in the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act, elected officials must do more to fight tobacco use disparities by increasing funding to the Tobacco Control Program.

“Nationwide, smoking rates have continued to decline to historically low levels, yet tobacco use remains the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease killing over 480,000 Americans each year,” said Jeff Seyler, Executive Vice President, Northeast Region of the American Lung Association. “Tobacco use is a serious addiction, and the fact that 15 percent of adults and 25 percent of high schoolers in New York are using tobacco products highlights how much work remains to be done in our communities to prevent and reduce tobacco use.”

This year’s “State of Tobacco Control” finds New York’s inconsistent grades show that progress is a moving target and, as Governor Cuomo and the state legislature continue to review and amend the newly proposed state budget, they should prioritize proven policies that will reduce tobacco use and save lives:

  • Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  • Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade A
  • Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade B
  • Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade C
  • Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade D

Despite the mixed report card, the American Lung Association in New York applauds state and local lawmakers on several important wins in 2017, including, leading the charge to include electronic cigarettes in smokefree air laws.  On a local level, over 57% of the state is now covered by Tobacco 21 laws through local municipalities, and Rockland County became the first county in New York State to prohibit the sale of tobacco in pharmacies.  In New York City, advocates hailed a comprehensive tobacco control package, signed by Mayor de Blasio that 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.

Celebrated local progress in 2017 helped to highlight gaps in state policy.  The American Lung Association urges Governor Cuomo to pass a comprehensive, statewide law to raise the age of sale for all tobacco products to 21. A statewide tobacco 21 law would help to minimize disparities between communities and protect youths across the state.   Close to 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette before the age of 21, and Tobacco 21 laws could be a powerful tool in reducing youth smoking rates.  In fact, the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) found increasing the minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to 21 could prevent 223,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019, including 50,000 fewer dying from lung cancer – the nation’s leading cancer killer.

Sadly, the report also details that as a result of decades of targeted marketing by the tobacco industry, too many Americans haven’t seen the benefits of reduced smoking rates, and New York and the federal government could do more to ensure all Americans benefit from tobacco control efforts. According to the American Lung Association, if New York would increase funding for tobacco control programs, they would have a powerful opportunity to focus on communities that still use tobacco at higher rates and who have been targeted by the tobacco industry. New York receives over $ 2 billion annually from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, and should use more of these funds to help prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit.  The program is currently funded at $39 million, only 20 percent of the $203 million recommended by the CDC.

“New York state has been a leader on some issues, while turning a blind eye to others.  Over 28,000 New Yorkers a year die from tobacco-caused illnesses and over 10,600 New York kids will become smokers this year – so there is still work to do,” said Kristina Wieneke, Director of Public Policy for the American Lung Association in New York. “The bottom line is that we know how to reduce tobacco use in this country, New York’s elected officials must act to implement these proven policies, which will prevent tobacco-caused death and disease, and help keep our lungs healthy.”

For media interested in speaking with an expert about the “State of Tobacco Control” report, lung health, tobacco use and tobacco control policies, contact the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 516-680-8927.

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About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.

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