This month, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released data from the 2013 Community Health Survey, revealing NYC adult smoking rates have increased to 16.1%. This is a substantial increase from the historic low rate of 14% in 2010, which occurred after a variety of tobacco prevention and control initiatives (expansion of the smoke-free air act, new public health campaigns, and price increases) were implemented.
Tobacco is still the #1 cause of preventable death in the United States – and in New York City; yet, since 2009, resources for tobacco control in New York State have been cut by half. New York State currently spends less than 20% of the amount recommended by the CDC for tobacco prevention. At the same time, the tobacco industry’s spending for advertising and promotion has reportedly increased to $8.8 billion nationwide, with $213.5 million spent in New York State. We know that constant bombardment of tobacco marketing makes it difficult for current smokers to quit and thwarts progress to de-normalize tobacco use.
Despite the fact that adult smoking rates in NYC remain lower than the national average, it is abundantly clear that we have our work cut out for us, and no one action will work alone. The rising smoking rates are a harsh reminder of our fight against predatory practices of an industry whose products kill millions of people every year. In order to change social norms on tobacco use, only a sustained comprehensive approach to tobacco control can effectively make a difference.