Don’t Smoke, Do Tell

Summer is here and New York families are flocking to our city’s parks and beaches.

Smoke-free parks and beaches in New York are now the norm.  The old norm was smoke-free bars and restaurants.  And before that, the old norm was smoke-filled airplanes.  Can you imagine that?  While Big Tobacco and its supporters warned at every step that Bloomberg was creating a so-called “nanny state” when he first introduced smoke-free bars and restaurants, our mayor’s regulations have become self-enforcing social norms, and it is hard to remember now that they were controversial when first proposed.  And social norms in many other cities, states and countries have followed suit.

Population-based policyeffects social change, which then becomes the norm.

Before any tobacco control legislation is passed, education and advocacy are necessary.  Why, you ask? The math is simple. Big Tobacco spends millions opposing good common sense public health policy or price increases, and fighting legislation in the courts.   Most recently, Proposition 29, which would increase a pack of cigarettes in California by a $1.00 in California, was ultimately defeated by a very narrow margin because voters were bombarded by the tobacco industry’s relentless ads that misrepresented the proposed tax.  Big Tobacco spent almost $50 million to defeat Proposition 29, and it worked.  Our work in the community educates voters so they are not so easily swayed by Big Tobacco’s unhealthy agenda and propaganda.

Now that the New York State Legislative’s 2012 session is over, we applaud the efforts of our champions at the state house.  In particular, I want to applaud State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D, WF-Bronx) and Assembly Member Jeff Donowitz (D-Bronx) who passed a bill in both the at the State State Senate and State Assembly that would limit NYC children’s exposure to secondhand smoke by extending prohibiting smoking within 100 feet of school entrances and exits.  Our youth have the right to breathe clean air where they learn.

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Is Sugar the New Tobacco?

Like tobacco, obesity is a leading cause of preventable death.  Being overweight or obese is now the norm in New York City, as it is throughout the country.  58% of adult New Yorkers are overweight or obese.  Two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are obese.  In NYC, obesity leads to 5,800 deaths a year and costs taxpayers $4 billion annually.

Like Big Tobacco, corporate manufacturers of sugary drinks rely heavily on marketing, particularly to children.  To attract youth, Big Tobacco advertising relies on themes of adventurousness, athleticism, sexual attractiveness, thinness, popularity and being “cool.”  We’ve stopped tobacco marketing on television and radio, but just 40 years ago, Fred Flintstone promoted Winston cigarettes.  Are we going to look back 50 years from now and think the same of Coke or Pepsi commercials?

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In New York City, Youth Agree: Smoke-Free is the Way to Be

As we wait for the final vote count on Proposition 29, a measure that would add a $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes in California, we know that price increases are a proven way to bring down smoking rates.  In fact, it is such an effective strategy, that even New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and seven-time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong are supporting the initiative.  Not surprisingly, Big Tobacco has spent almost $48 million in California to “interfere” with the $1 tax measure.  We hope they do not win, but if they do, we will continue our fight to protect youth from smoking.

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