Thankful for Progress, Hopeful for More

We have a lot to be thankful for.  Thirty of America’s 50 largest cities are now covered by laws that prohibit smoking in all indoor areas of private workplaces, restaurants, and bars, according to new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s hard to believe that in 2000, only one of the largest U.S. cities—San Jose, CA—was covered by such a law.

Today, almost half of Americans are protected by state or local smoke-free laws, compared to less than three percent in 2000. As we look back and thank all the legislators, tobacco control champions, and public health advocates who have supported smoke-free laws, let’s not forget there’s more work to be done.

In NYC, while we have brought down smoking rates to an all-time low of 14%, we can’t let our guard down and be complacent. Now is the time to be even more vigilant.  Why?

Reducing tobacco use saves lives and the state money. Given our success in NYC, we know what works. Our comprehensive approach that includes increased prices, hard-hitting educational media, tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and bold policy has proven to work. We’re thankful for our success, but know we need to do more.

Hard to believe that while New York State took in $2 billion in tobacco taxes and Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement payments, the state spent only a mere two cents of every dollar raised on tobacco prevention and cessation. This year, New York State will spend on tobacco control only 16 percent of the amount recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2009, funding for tobacco control programs has been cut in half.

New York State has always been a leader in progressive policies. But NYS now ranks 20th in the nation in per capita tobacco control spending.

We’re thankful for the success we’ve had in bringing down smoking rates, saving lives and saving the state money. But if we’re to meet the challenges that lie ahead and reach the most vulnerable in our city and state to improve health for all New Yorkers, we urge the state to immediately increase annual funding to at least one-third of the CDC’s recommending funding level for New York to $85 million. With these resources, we could develop and fund interventions to address disparities in smoking rates, particularly for adults with low income, limited education, and mental illness.

At Thanksgiving, as New York emerges from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, let’s not forget our city’s most vulnerable. The NYC Coalition is committed to protecting the health of all New Yorkers—not just the top 1% or the most fortunate.  We are committed to providing them with the resources they need to quit and preventing our children from ever starting to light up.