Teens and health advocates denounced the tobacco industry for recruiting youth smokers and called for higher NYC tobacco prices at a press conference on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 in Times Square. Currently, 20,000 NYC public high school students smoke. One-third of them, approximately 6,600, will die prematurely from smoking. To represent the terrible cost tobacco imposes on New Yorkers’ lives, the Coalition unveiled an art installation: “6,600” spelled out with children’s shoes.
These teens and advocates added their voices to thousands around the world as part of on-going events for World No Tobacco Day, sponsored by the World Health Organization. The message from local teens was clear: the tobacco industry spends billions on marketing to addict youth replacement smokers – and we’ve seen enough. National health organizations are urging local, state and the federal governments to raise tobacco taxes to further reduce smoking rates and prevent youth from lighting their first cigarette.
According to the 50th Anniversary 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, tobacco industry marketing causes youth smoking. Youth are constantly exposed to tobacco marketing because the tobacco industry spends billions on tobacco marketing strategies in convenience stores to make tobacco products more attractive to new customers, which are almost entirely youth.
Research over the past decade has concluded that increases in cigarette prices result in reduced prevalence of smoking and smoking intensity among youth and young adults. Higher prices also reduce relapse for those who have quit and reduce consumption among smokers. Every 10 percent increase in cigarette prices reduces youth smoking by about seven percent and total cigarette consumption by about four percent.
NYC’s tobacco tax has not increased since 2002. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association of the Northeast and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids all endorse higher prices as a critical component of our strategy to prevent youth smoking and lower smoking rates in New York City.
“Raising the price of cigarettes is the single most effective way known to reduce smoking, especially among kids,” said Kevin O’Flaherty, Director of Advocacy for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “While New York City has shown tremendous leadership and had great success over the last twelve years in reducing tobacco use among adults and children, additional increases in tobacco taxes must be considered if we’re going to further drive down tobacco use and help New York end the tobacco epidemic for good.”
“A world without tobacco would mean NYC youth living longer and healthier lives,” said Gary Schefren of The Original Antique Boutique who donated the shoes for the art installation. The Original Antique Boutique, a NYC-based online store, has begun what will be a longstanding tradition of supporting youth.
We need to stomp out the tobacco epidemic now and ensure our next generation is tobacco-free.