Coalition Delivers Letter to Governor Hochul in Support of Tobacco Proposals

January 30, 2023

January 31, 2023

Hon. Kathy Hochul

New York State Capitol

Albany, NY 12224  

Re: Support for ending the sale of all flavored tobacco and increasing tobacco taxes


Dear Governor Hochul,

We strongly support and applaud your call to create a Tobacco-Free Generation in New York State by taking bold, yet essential steps to make tobacco products both less appealing and more expensive for youth so they never start this deadly addiction. Ending the sale of menthol cigarettes and all other flavored tobacco, significantly increasing taxes on cigarettes and all other tobacco products, increasing funding for tobacco control, and fixing the loopholes and enforcement issues that continue to allow flavored e-cigarettes to be available to New York’s kids are essential to achieving these goals, and will have positive impacts on the health of New Yorkers for generations to come.

With approximately 12% of New York adults still smoking and 28,200 New Yorkers projected to die from smoking-related illness this year, communities across New York, especially those that have been targeted by and bear a disproportionate burden from predatory tobacco industry practices, will benefit greatly from these proposed reforms.

Tobacco Tax Increases

Increasing the cigarette tax by $1 per pack, moving it from $4.35 to $5.35 per pack is projected to generate significant public health benefits for New Yorkers.

Among other health benefits, the new tax proposal would also have significant public health benefits including:

  • Decrease youth (under age 18) smoking by 8.2%
  • Prevent 14,400 youth under age 18 from becoming adults who smoke
  • Reduce the number of young adults (18-24 years old) who smoke by 3,000
  • Result in 44,800 adults who currently smoke quitting
  • Save over 15,300 lives

In addition to increasing the cigarette tax, it is important that the proposal includes an increase in the tax on all other tobacco products (OTPs) that parallels the new cigarette tax rate. Raising state tax rates on OTPs, including e-cigarettes, to create equity with the increased cigarette tax rate will bring the state additional revenue, public health benefits and cost savings, and will ensure that the state does not inadvertently promote one tobacco product over another to kids, who are more price-sensitive than adults.  It is also important that tobacco taxes are levied on all tobacco products at an equivalent rate to encourage people to quit rather than switch to a cheaper product when the tax is increased.

Any additional revenue raised by the new tax rates should go toward fact-based, statewide tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

Ending the Sale of Menthol Cigarettes and All Other Flavored Tobacco Products

Flavors are a marketing weapon used by tobacco manufacturers to target youth and young people to a lifetime of addiction. Altering tobacco product ingredients and design, like adding flavors, can improve the ease of use of a product by masking harsh effects, facilitating nicotine uptake, and increasing a product’s overall appeal. Mint, Menthol and other candy, and fruit flavored tobacco products are a promotional tool to lure new, young users, and are aggressively marketed with creative campaigns by tobacco companies.

Products with flavors like cherry, grape, cotton candy, mint and gummy bear are clearly not aimed at established, adult tobacco users and years of tobacco industry documents confirm the intended use of flavors to target youth. Furthermore, youth report flavors a leading reason they use tobacco products and perceive flavored products as less harmful.

If New York is to ever succeed in ending the cycle of addiction to tobacco, it is imperative that this proposal include all products and all flavors—including menthol cigarettes.

Tobacco manufacturers have aggressively targeted communities of color and LGBTQ+ communities with menthol products, leading to an unequal burden of death and disease. The overwhelming majority of all African Americans who smoke (85.5 percent) report smoking menthol cigarettes compared to less than a third of whites who smoke (28.7 percent). Almost half of youth who smoked cigarettes used menthol cigarettes (46.7 percent).

Internal tobacco industry documents show that the tobacco companies were intentionally targeting African Americans and other minorities through advertising in magazines with high readership by these populations, including youth, and by targeting specific neighborhoods with higher Hispanic and African American populations with more advertising and promotions.

While New York State moved quickly in 2020 to address the explosive growth in flavored electronic cigarettes by passing legislation to end the sale of most flavored electronic cigarettes, legislation to end the sale of menthol cigarettes all other flavored tobacco products has long stalled. The result has been Big Tobacco continuing to hook kids with their deadly products and profit off the lives of people of color, the LGBTQ+ community and communities with limited incomes.

In the absence of a comprehensive proposal that includes all flavors, all products, and all retailers, we run the risk of youth and adults substituting with menthol cigarettes or any other flavored product that is not included in the proposal.

Closing Loopholes and Addressing Enforcement Issues with Flavored E-cigarettes

When New York State passed legislation within the 2020 budget to address the epidemic of e-cigarette use among youth, it created enforcement loopholes in the law that have caused challenges to effective enforcement of the law.  The exemption for products that have received a pre-market tobacco product authorization (PMTA) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has created ambiguity around which flavored products remain legal under the law for retailers and health inspectors.  Out of the six states that have comprehensive e-cigarette flavor policies, only New York has this exemption, and it has the highest continued retail availability of prohibited products of any of those states.  In addition, loopholes that allow distributors to continue to carry and sell prohibited products to merchants as well as vagueness that allows retailers to claim they are selling products remotely undercut the effectiveness of the law. These loopholes need to be eliminated.   

To conclude, on behalf of our organizations, we are writing to offer our support for ending the sale of menthol cigarettes and all other flavored tobacco and increasing the cigarette tax by at least $1 per pack. We call on you to expand your tax proposal to include a parallel tax on all other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and dedicate a significant portion of the new tax revenue to tobacco control programs.  Lastly, it is critical that shortcomings and loopholes in New York’s current law prohibiting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes be addressed at this time to make sure that kids are not continuing to become addicted to any flavored tobacco product.

Over twenty years ago New York State became a national leader in the fight against tobacco by passing one of the first comprehensive smoke-free air laws and by adopting the highest cigarette tax rate in the nation. However, in recent years, states and municipalities across the nation have surpassed New York as the national leader.

We believe these proposals are a huge step toward decreasing tobacco use rates and, with it, saving lives across New York. Your decision to prioritize these policies is courageous, represents the aggressive action we need to curtail tobacco use, and will once again make New York the national leader in the fight against tobacco.


  • African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC)
  • American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
  • American Heart Association
  • American Lung Association
  • American Nurses Association - New York (ANA-NY)
  • Brooklyn College Cancer Center
  • Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
  • Center for Black Health & Equity
  • Columbia University Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Community Health Care Association of New York State
  • Interfaith Public Health Network.
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Montefiore Health System
  • Mount Sinai Tisch Cancer Center
  • NAACP New York State Conference
  • New York Chapter of the American College of Surgeons
  • New York Public Interest Research Group
  • New York State Academy of Family Physicians
  • New York State American Academy of Pediatrics, Chapters 1, 2 & 3
  • New York State Association of County Health Officials
  • New York State Council of School Superintendents
  • New York State PTA
  • New York State Public Health Association
  • New York State School Boards Association
  • NYU Langone
  • Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes
  • St. Peter's Health Partners
  • The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Capital Area