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New York State Earns Failing Grade for Tobacco Prevention and Control Funding in American Lung Association 'State of Tobacco Control' Report

New York’s grade on Tobacco 21 Laws Improves from a D to a C, with Growing Public Support for Legislation to Raise the Age of Sale; Lung Association calls officials to pass Governor Cuomo's Tobacco Proposal to save lives

(January 30, 2019) - NEW YORK

For more information please contact:

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

Tobacco use remains the nation's leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year. This year's "State of Tobacco Control" report from the American Lung Association calls 2018 a year of "incremental progress," for the state, citing local support for Tobacco 21, and a small increase in tobacco control funding, but laments the slow nature of meaningful and lasting action like many of the initiatives outlined in Governor Cuomo's recently announced tobacco proposal.  His proposal which includes Tobacco 21 and restrictions on e-cigarette flavors, along with increased funding for prevention and cessation programs are life saving measures that would better the lives of New Yorkers.  

The need for New York State to take action to protect youth from tobacco is more urgent than ever, with youth e-cigarette use reaching epidemic levels due to a 78 percent increase in high school e-cigarette use from 2017 to 2018, according to results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey. This equals one million additional kids beginning to use e-cigarettes, placing their developing bodies and lungs at risk from the chemicals in e-cigarettes as well as a lifetime of addiction to a deadly product. This has caused the U.S. Surgeon General to declare e-cigarette use among young people an epidemic in an Advisory issued in December 2018.

"In New York, our high school tobacco use rate remains at over 19 percent and adult tobacco use is over 17 percent.  Governor Cuomo's legislative package, which includes language to raise the age of sale, restrict e-cigarette flavors and displays, and prohibit the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies, can truly turn the tide on those stats and reduce the use of tobacco in New York State," said Michael Seilback, National Assistant Vice President of State Public Policy for American Lung Association. "Paired with an increase in funding for prevention and control programs, New York would have bragging rights as a clear leader in public health."

The 17th annual "State of Tobacco Control" report grades states and the federal government on policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and finds that while New York is on the cusp of taking significant steps to reduce tobacco use through Governor Cuomo's recent tobacco proposal and local adoption of Tobacco 21,  elected officials must act urgently and boldly to save lives and ensure all New York residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke:

  • 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 C

The American Lung Association encourages New York State to fully fund tobacco control efforts at levels recommended by the CDC, and in particular, this year's report noted the need to focus on raising the age of sale of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21 and restricting e-cigarette products through the licensing of retailers and taxation.

Tobacco is a highly addictive product, and close to 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette by the age of 21. More must be done to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use in New York and one powerful tool is increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21. In 2018 a number of counties, including Westchester, Ulster and Suffolk passed Tobacco 21 legislation – taking the number of New Yorkers covered by the law up to over 75 percent (a significant jump from 55 percent in 2017).

"Virtually all adult smokers had their first cigarette before age 21, and most before the age of 18, but we can change this in New York by increasing the age of sale for tobacco products to at least 21 years old and placing new restrictions and taxes on e-cigarettes, which are the most are the most commonly used tobacco products among kids. These moves would significantly reduce youth tobacco use, slow the e-cigarette epidemic and save thousands of lives," said Elizabeth Hamlin-Berninger, Director of Advocacy in New York for the American Lung Association.  "We call for our state representatives to take action and pass Governor Cuomo's proposal which will raise the minimum sales age for tobacco, including e-cigarettes to 21, and recognize the danger posed by e-cigarettes to our youth."

Dr. Payel Gupta, an Asthma and Allergy specialist treating adults and children in New York City at ENT and Allergy Associates echoed the call to better protect youth from tobacco saying, "According to a 2015 report from the National Academy of Medicine, raising the tobacco age to 21 nationwide would 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.  Failing to put policies like this in place will continue to place the lung health and lives of Americans and our children at risk."

In addition to raising the age of sale, New York State must consider increasing funding for tobacco control programs, as a powerful opportunity to help further reduce and prevent tobacco use, including supporting communities that still use tobacco at higher rates and who have been targeted by the tobacco industry. An investment in prevention is especially important given the skyrocketing number of youth who are using e-cigarettes. Despite the state receiving over $2 billion in tobacco-related revenue from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, the state only funds 21 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended level.

Hamlin-Berninger concluded, "The ‘State of Tobacco Control' 2019 provides a blueprint that states and the federal government can follow to put in place proven policies that will have the greatest impact on reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in the U.S. The real question is: Will lawmakers in New York end their failure to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease?"

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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