New Lung Association Report: Ending Tobacco Use in New York Critical to Saving Lives, Especially during Pandemic

New York State earns an F in prevention and funding, Lung Association calls on state officials to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products in 2021 to end tobacco use, youth vaping and save l

Even amid the pandemic, tobacco use remains a serious public health threat and the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, taking an estimated 480,000 lives every year.  In addition to tobacco-related death and disease, smoking also increases the risk of the most severe impacts of COVID-19, making ending tobacco use more important than ever. This year’s “State of Tobacco Control” report from the American Lung Association grades federal and state efforts to reduce tobacco use and calls for meaningful policies that will prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. The report finds that New York State earned a failing grade for prevention and funding and a D grade in its new category, “flavored tobacco.” Positively, the state also earned an A grade for smokefree air, and two B grades for its cessation services and tobacco taxes. 

The 19th 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 State has taken significant steps to reduce tobacco use, including the prohibition of flavored e-cigarettes, elected officials should do more to save lives and ensure all New York residents benefit from reductions in tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. This is especially the case during the pandemic – and much like COVID-19, tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure disproportionately impacts certain communities, including communities of color, LGTBQ+ Americans and persons of lower income. To address this critical public health threat, “State of Tobacco Control” provides a roadmap for the federal and state policies needed to prevent and reduce tobacco use.

This year’s 19th annual report finds that in 2021 New York has the opportunity to take action and end the sale of all flavored tobacco products in order to support public health and save lives in 2021. The removal of menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars and other flavored tobacco products is a social justice and health equity issue that must be addressed this year.  Ending the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol, will not only help end youth vaping, but will also help address the disproportionate impact of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke on Black and Brown communities. Menthol cigarettes remain a key vector for tobacco-related death and disease in Black communities, with nearly 85% of Black Americans who smoke using them.  

“In New York State, our high school tobacco use rates remain at 19.3%.  The state took an important step last year in removing flavored e-cigarettes from shelves, but without including menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, it’s not enough to end the surge in youth tobacco use. Kids follow the flavors and ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products in New York is key to ending the youth e-cigarette epidemic and youth tobacco use overall,” said American Lung Association’s National Assistant Vice President for State Public Policy Michael Seilback.

New York’s Grades 
“State of Tobacco Control” 2021 grades states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. New York received the following grades: 

  1. Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade F
  2. Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws – Grade A
  3. Level of State Tobacco Taxes – Grade B
  4. Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco – Grade B
  5. NEW! Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products   - Grade D 

The American Lung Association encourages New York State to put in place all the public policies called for in “State of Tobacco Control.” In particular, this year’s report noted the need to focus on funding for tobacco prevention and quit smoking programs.  An investment in prevention is especially important given the ongoing youth vaping epidemic. “Despite receiving $1.9 billion from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, New York only funds tobacco control efforts at 21% of the level recommended by the CDC. The Lung Association believes the funds should be used to support the health of our communities, and to prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit, and not switch to e-cigarettes. These programs are also critical for helping to end tobacco-related health disparities” said Seilback.

Additionally, the State should raise the tax on cigarettes, and other tobacco products. The state’s tax on cigarettes has not been increased since 2010. Increasing the tax on these products, will help reduce youth use, help current users quit and raise much needed revenue for the state, some of which the state should invest back into the tobacco control program.

Federal Grades Overview
“State of Tobacco Control” 2021 also grades the federal government in five areas: 

  • Federal Government Regulation of Tobacco Products (2021 grade – D)
  • Federal Coverage of Quit Smoking Treatments (2021 grade – D)
  • Level of Federal Tobacco Taxes (2021 grade – F)
  • Federal Mass Media Campaigns to Prevent and Reduce Tobacco Use (2021 grade – A)
  • Federal Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 (2021 grade – A)

“State of Tobacco Control” 2021 provides an important framework on how states like New York and the federal government can put in place the policies proven to have the greatest impact on reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. Because of COVID-19, we are all thinking more about lung health. Now is the time for lawmakers in New York to act and take this opportunity to achieve lasting reductions in tobacco-related death and disease,” said Seilback. 

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. 

For more information, contact:

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

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