The amendment to the Smoke-Free Air Act to include e-cigarettes went into effect yesterday. New Yorkers are now able to breathe clean, smoke- and vapor-free air in public places and workplaces. This is another milestone in tobacco control and a huge win for New Yorkers, especially our kids.
Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed new regulations that would bring a semblance of order to the current marketplace for e-cigarettes and extend its authority over other tobacco products that have not yet been regulated.
This is only the first step. Before the FDA can regulate the flavors and marketing of e-cigarettes, the agency first needed to bring e-cigarettes under their authority.
January 2014 marked the fifty-year anniversary of the first Surgeon General (SG) Report on Smoking and Health. It was a landmark event that changed the course of the tobacco epidemic. The report set the stage for the growth of a robust evidence base for tobacco control policy and programs that led to the dramatic decline in tobacco use from 42% in 1964 (the peak year for smoking) to 18% today. The story is one of public health advocacy, informed by strong science, triumphing over multi-billion dollar international corporations whose strategies aimed to mislead the public and subvert implementation of evidence-based policies.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that the number of calls to poison control centers related to e-cigarette exposure rose from one a month in September 2010 to 215 a month in February 2014. More than half of the reported exposures were among young children.
Fifty years after the first U.S. Surgeon General report on smoking, patterns of cigarette use have changed. Tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, but smoking is increasingly a burden on the poor and working class.
According to a study recently published by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Americans living in affluent counties smoke less over time than those living in counties with lower income.
In New York City and State, leaders in tobacco control policy have instituted a comprehensive approach to tobacco control and prevention, including strong smoke-free laws, high prices for cigarettes and hard-hitting educational media. While the overall smoking rate has declined in New York State, the rates have not declined for the poor and less educated as significantly as they have among those who are more affluent and educated.
Take the South Bronx—a prime example of this disparity. The Bronx has been rated as one of the nation’s unhealthiest and most poverty stricken counties. More than a quarter-million people in the South Bronx are living in poverty, making it the poorest Congressional District in the nation. With a smoking rate of 18.2%, the South Bronx has one of the highest smoking rates in New York City, which has a citywide smoking rate of 15.5%.
The Coalition is working to help many tenants and building owners adopt voluntary smoke-free housing policies. We are also working with supportive housing providers to help them go smoke-free.
Supportive housing is affordable housing with on-site services for individuals and families facing a variety of challenges, including homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse. People with mental illness smoke cigarettes at higher rates than those without mental illness and substance abuse. But according to a study, smokers with mental illness are as motivated to quit smoking as the general population.