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.

We also commend Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) for championing the health of NYC children.  Her common sense bill banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors is now on its way to the Governor for signature.

We were disappointed that Assembly Member Paulin’s (D-Westchester) smoking disclosure bill did not move forward this legislative term.  New Yorkers strongly support policies that allow the public to make informed decisions about where to live to protect our health and the health of our families.  The smoking disclosure bill would help New York State residents make the informed choice to live where they will not be routinely exposed to secondhand smoke.  There’s momentum building across the country in support of smoke-free housing.  Fifty-nine percent of New Yorkers support smoke-free housing.

It is clear that bold, innovative, population-based public health policy can change social norms and foster healthier lifestyles.  I am so grateful that in New York State, we have policy makers who agree.