As 2013 draws to a close, I reflect on the progress we’ve made over the past year to raise awareness around tobacco control in New York City and the country. By partnering with community members and health advocates, and then educating policy makers, we’ve supported efforts that we believe will effect long-term, positive change and protect public health.
Here’s our Top Ten list for 2013:
1. Three new smoke-free laws
One day before his last in office, Mayor Bloomberg signed into law a bill that expands the Smoke-Free Air Act to include e-cigarettes
New York City became the first major city in the country to raise the legal sale age for tobacco products to 21. Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Council also passed legislation to stop tobacco industry discount schemes; and prohibit the smoking of electronic cigarettes in indoor public places and workplaces, including bars and restaurants. These bold and groundbreaking smoke-free laws should help reduce youth smoking rates in our City and serve as models for the rest of the United States and the world.
If you’re a smoker, make 2014 the year you quit smoking. Regardless, though, of whether you smoke, resolve to make your home smoke-free.
If you live in an apartment and your neighbor smokes, you may be exposed to secondhand smoke. According to the Surgeon General, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. All apartment dwellers can encourage their buildings to adopt a smoke-free policy.
In New York City Council chambers, a e-smoker waits to hear if legislation will pass that will prohibit smoking e-cigarettes at workplaces and indoor public places, such as City Hall.
The New York City Council voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation to include electronic cigarettes in the City’s Smoke-Free Air Act which prohibits smoking in indoor public places and workplaces, including bars and restaurants.
A recent study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in one year, from 2011 to 2012, e-cigarette use among middle and high school students more than doubled from 4.7% to 10.0%. I am concerned that this unregulated product will serve as a nicotine starter kit for youth. Some studies suggest that e-cigarettes are a “gateway” to smoking traditional tobacco products.
While the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City is awaiting further information from the FDA, one thing is perfectly clear: New York children and teenagers should not be exposed to any products that may encourage addiction.
Local and state governments across the country are adding e-cigarettes to their Smoke-Free Air Acts. I commend the New York City Council for taking action that prevents the normalization of smoking of any kind for our young people.
Our Guest Blogger today is Dr. Cheryl Healton, Dean of Global Public Health at NYU and the Director of the Global Institute of Public Health. She weighs in on the proposed legislation to extend the NYC Smoke-Free Air Act to include e-cigarettes:
The New York City Council will vote tomorrow whether to extend the NYC Smoke-Free Air Act (SFAA) to e-cigarettes. This decision is a key turning point for tobacco control policy and will have potentially broad national and even global implications. How e-cigarettes will influence youth entry to tobacco use and the efforts of people to quit smoking and to stay quit remain unknown, but the net impact could be dire.
Who is the e-cigarette industry?
Increasingly the e-cigarette industry is owned by the tobacco industry, an industry that would not be permitted to exist were it invented tomorrow because it would violate the consumer protection laws of all states and virtually every country in the world. For this reason, a healthy degree of skepticism about the industry’s ultimate goal in buying up e-cigarette manufacturers and creating more “efficient” e-cigarettes should prevail as policy makers establish regulations governing them. It is quite possible that the net effect of e-cigarettes will be to induce greater youth initiation of smoking and reduce the adult cessation rate, but the jury is still out. Both youth and adult smoking rates are at their lowest levels in decades, so much is a stake for the health of the public. There is also much at stake for the tobacco industry as it seeks to apply its considerable marketing acumen and seemingly endless resources to maximize profit by increasing the number who start smoking by enticing youth worldwide to smoke and by trying to retain current smokers.
Sheelah Feinberg testifying at a public hearing conducted by the Health Committee of the New York City Council.
Good morning and thank you Council Member Arroyo and members of the Health Committee for the opportunity to speak today.
My name is Sheelah Feinberg, and I am the Executive Director of the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City, a program of Public Health Solutions. The Coalition is a public health advocacy group that has worked with over one hundred health and youth focused community groups across the five boroughs to raise awareness around tobacco control and prevention. We support neighborhood efforts for long-term change and believe that all New Yorkers have the right to breathe clean, smoke-free air where they live, work, and play.
We have written about the rise in e-cigarette use, especially among young people. There has been a lot of discussion about the safety and use of e-cigarettes, and many are waiting for the FDA to weigh in on the on how best to regulate them.
The New York City Council has scheduled a hearing this Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at 10am in Council Chambers at City Hall on legislation that would add e-cigarettes to the NYC Smoke-Free Air Act that prohibits smoking in the workplace, including bars and restaurants. The legislation would also prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in our City’s parks and on our beaches.
If you would like to share your thoughts with the City Council, please join us for the hearing.