New York wants to be a leader in tobacco policy

ALBANY, NY (WTEN) — New York State is poised to cement its leadership on tobacco control policy, according to the American Lung Association’s 21st annual State of Tobacco Control report, released Wednesday. The state’s composite scores remained flat for the second year in a row, with tobacco use rates declining.

The State of Tobacco Control report assesses state and federal tobacco control policies and recommends tobacco control laws and policies that have been proven to be effective in saving lives. A spokesman for the American Lung Association said this is critical because tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in America, killing 28,170 New York residents each year.

“New York has been a leader in tobacco control policy for decades, and we are pleased to see both adult smoking rates and youth tobacco use rates declining,” said Trevor Summerfield, director of advocacy at the American Lung Association in New York. “This is an important advance, but there are still 1 in 4 high school students in New York State who use tobacco products, putting their health at great risk. If the state can implement Governor Hochul’s vision of raising tobacco taxes and removing all flavored tobacco from the shelves in the next session, we have a real chance to save lives.”

The report ranks states and the District of Columbia in five areas that have been shown to prevent and reduce tobacco use and save lives. In the 2023 report, New York received the scores listed below.

— Promotion of government tobacco prevention programs: F

— Strength of smoke-free workplace laws: A

— Amount of state tobacco taxes: B

— Coverage and access to tobacco cessation services: C

— Discontinuation of sales of all flavored tobacco products: D

This year’s report found that New York policymakers need to focus on ending sales of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. According to the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than 2.5 million high school and middle school students use e-cigarettes, and more than 85% of those children use flavored e-cigarettes.

“Ending the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol, will not only help end youth vaping, but will also help reduce the disproportionate impact of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars on many communities, including Black Americans, LGBTQ+ Americans and youth,” a spokesman for the American Lung Association said in a press release.

In addition, the report recommended that the state increase tobacco taxes. “One of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use among both low-income individuals and youth is to significantly increase taxes on all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes,” the press release continues.

Several studies have shown that every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by around 4% in adults and by around 7% in adolescents. New York has not increased its tobacco tax significantly since 2010, and the Lung Association said it supports Gov. Hochul’s proposal to increase the tax by $2.00 per pack.

The state’s only failing grade remains in the tobacco control program funding category. Although New York receives $1.8 billion from tobacco compensation payments and tobacco taxes, it funds tobacco control efforts at only 20.7% of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Lung Association said the funds should be used to support the health of our communities and prevent tobacco use and help people quit smoking and not switch to e-cigarettes.

“These programs are also critical to helping end tobacco-related health inequalities and would significantly support the impact of higher tobacco taxes and the removal of flavored tobacco from the New York market by providing additional resources and resources to those who wish to quit tobacco make programs available,” he concluded the press release.