Support continues to build in NY for Tobacco 21

February 11, 2019

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network • American Heart Association American Lung Association • American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation • Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids • The Children’s Agenda • Children’s Defense Fund-New York • Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York • Community Health Care Association of New York State • Healthcare Association of New York State • March of Dimes • Medical Society of the State of New York • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center • Mental Health Association in New York State • New York Chapter American College of Physicians Services Inc. • National Alliance on Mental Illness-NYS • New York State Academy of Family Physicians • NYS American Academy of Pediatrics, Chapters 1, 2 & 3 • New York State Association for Rural Health • New York State Association of County Health Officials • New York State Public Health Association •  Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center • Schuyler Center for Analysis & Advocacy • University of Rochester Medical Center

Support a comprehensive effort to reduce access to tobacco products, increase the age of sale of tobacco products to 21 and increase funding for the Tobacco Control Program to $52 million.


As public health advocates and medical professionals, we are committed to improving the health of all New Yorkers.  To help New York become the healthiest state in the nation, we must take an aggressive stand to combat tobacco use. We are excited to see this year’s Executive Budget recognizes the toll tobacco takes on residents and prioritizes combatting tobacco use. 


The facts don’t lie. About half of all Americans who keep smoking will die because of the addiction. Each year more than 480,000 people in the United States die from illnesses related to tobacco use. This means smoking causes about 1 out of 5 deaths in the US.  In fact, smoking cigarettes kills more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, HIV, guns, and illegal drugs combined.


Right here in New York, tobacco companies are still profiting from the death of New Yorkers. We must take decisive action to address this epidemic here in New York.  Tobacco remains the number one preventable cause of death in New York, killing over 28,000 New Yorkers annually. While New York has made progress in combatting tobacco, 14.2 % of adults are still smoking. 


Perhaps the most alarming trend is the use of e-cigarettes by youth in New York.  Recent data shows e-cigarette use by high school students jumped 160% from 2014 to 2018. Over 27% of New York high school students now use e-cigarettes. We are seeing an entire generation of our kids becoming addicted to new tobacco products and being exposed to nicotine, ultrafine particles, heavy metals and volatile organic compounds in e-cigarettes. 


The spike in the use of e-cigarettes is particularly troubling given a December 2016 Report of the US Surgeon General found the use of tobacco products containing nicotine in any form among youth, including in e-cigarettes, is unsafe. The report also noted nicotine exposure during adolescence can cause addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain.


To protect our children and combat the tobacco industry’s efforts will require a comprehensive approach that includes reducing access to tobacco products, increasing funding for the state’s tobacco control program, and providing New Yorkers with the support they need to quit.


Given 95 percent of adult smokers start smoking before the age of 21, increasing the age for the sale of tobacco products is a smart step to help reduce access to tobacco products.  There is a growing body of evidence that Tobacco 21 could significantly reduce smoking rates. A March 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine, The Public Health Implications of Raising the Minimum Age of Legal Access to Tobacco Products, predicts raising the national minimum age for the sale of tobacco products to 21 will likely lead to a 12% reduction in smoking prevalence.


In addition to policy efforts, it is critical that New York increase funding for the state’s Tobacco Control Program.  While New York has traditionally been in the vanguard in fighting tobacco, the deceptive marketing strategies of the tobacco industry threaten to undermine the progress New York has made in recent years.  The Tobacco Control Program must now attempt to reach a substantially larger number of youth than in previous years.  However, the program has not been provided any additional resources to effectively reach the growing number of children being swayed to try these new tobacco products.


Additionally, drastic disparities in smoking rates have been exposed in recent years. It has become increasingly evident that smoking is an equity issue. In every corner of New York, you can find populations with higher smoking rates including those with low-income, low-education, those reporting poor mental health, and the LGBTQ community. Taking action to reduce this disproportionate burden will improve the health and quality of life for all.


Moreover, the state's taxpayers pay over $10.4 billion in tobacco-related health care costs including over $6 billion in Medicaid- related health costs caused by smoking-related diseases.


At just $39.7 million, New York’s Tobacco Control Program is woefully underfunded.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends New York spend $203 million per year to reduce tobacco use, and the Independent Evaluation of the state's tobacco control program suggests that to fully reach all New Yorkers, funding should increase to at least half of the CDC recommendation, increasing incrementally in the following years until support reaches the CDC recommendation. 


While the New York State Legislature and Governor have taken important steps to address this public health threat in recent years, there is far more we can do.  In this year’s budget, we strongly urge the Legislature to support the Governor’s proposed comprehensive tobacco control package that includes increasing the age of sale of tobacco products to 21 and to also increase funding for the Tobacco Control Program to $52 million.


For additional information, contact Julie Hart at 518.505.7833 or [email protected]



Updated February 11, 2019