New Restrictions on Tobacco Coupons and Discounts in NYC

0d577c4Our guest blogger is Harlan Juster, PhD.,Director, Bureau of Tobacco Control, New York State Department of Health.

Welcome from Albany.

Recently, New York City made great progress moving tobacco control forward becoming the most significant community in the nation to place restrictions on discounts and coupons for tobacco products and setting a significant “price floor.” These restrictions combine to offset the tobacco industry’s strategy of undermining high prices for tobacco products, one of the most powerful interventions we have in tobacco control. While the tobacco industry initially sued the city, the new law was upheld and the industry chose not to appeal the outcome.  Thus, restrictions on coupons and discounts went into effect on August 1st while the price floor regulation was not challenged and went into effect earlier in the year.

This is a very positive outcome for New York City and for tobacco control in general.  It bodes well for our state which has the highest tax in the nation, comprehensive clean indoor air legislation, and an evidence-based tobacco control program.  Point of sale policy initiatives, like those passed in New York City are the next logical step as we continue to push hard to reduce the influence of the tobacco industry on youth initiation and adult cessation.

Thanks to our New York City contractors and contractors across the state for all the good work they do to reduce the impact of tobacco industry promotion and marketing, and protect the health and well-being of all New Yorkers.


A New Mural in Honor of World No Tobacco Day

705A picture is worth a thousand words.

That’s why students at the High School for Medical Professions in Canarsie, Brooklyn decided to show their friends and peers why they should kick the habit of smoking. On May 21, 2014, in honor of World No Tobacco Day, the students unveiled a mural showing the health effects of smoking that they had painted on their school’s cafeteria wall.

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World No Tobacco Day: The Real Price New Yorkers Pay for Tobacco Use

10376861_798497033495790_2746208451155712568_nTeens 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.

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Addiction Incorporated is Now Available

Addiction_Poster_FINAL_LmedIn December 2011, a group of our community partners joined us for a screening of the Charles Evans Jr.’s film, Addiction Incorporated. The film is now available on DVD for schools, universities, libraries and other educational institutions.

The film explains how former how former Philip Morris scientist Victor DeNoble’s unexpected discovery of an addiction ingredient in tobacco led to cigarettes that are even more addictive and how his Congressional testimony forever changed how tobacco is sold and marketed.

Anyone interested in public health and tobacco control will find this film engaging. Hard-hitting, suspenseful and eye-opening, Addiction Incorporated shows how Big Tobacco used its resources to intimidate scientists, the media, and public and elected officials to protect its profits.

Today, Big Tobacco spends $8.8 billion a year on tobacco marketing, much of it targeting youth. The current “Be Marlboro” campaign is just one example of the kind of aggressive and manipulative marketing the tobacco industry uses to encourage youth to smoke. Big Tobacco will stop at nothing to recruit youth as “replacement smokers” to ensure the economic future of their industry.

Addiction Incorporated reminds us that truth and sound science will always triumph over commerce and conspiracy.

Smoking and Poverty

South_Bronx_Cover2Fifty 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%.

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NYC Youth ‘Kick Butts’

kick butts dayHundreds of youth in the five boroughs took a stand against tobacco on the 19th annual Kick Butts Day, March 19, 2014. Kick Butts day is a national day of activism that empowers youth to speak out against Big Tobacco.

Our Manhattan team and the YM & YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood opened a kiosk on Nagle Avenue in Washington Heights to provide information on the effects of tobacco marking on youth. We showed our video

Tiffany Rivera of the Manhattan Smoke-Free Partnership with Manhattan youth

Tiffany Rivera of the Manhattan Smoke-Free Partnership with Manhattan youth

“Through Our Eyes: NYC Youth on Tobacco Marketing‬”, and youth tobacco control advocates talked with their peers about how tobacco marketing can cause kids to start and continue to use tobacco products.

Our Brooklyn team along with our partner, the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC)-Brooklyn Branch, launched a new video whose hero, “Smoke-Free Brock Li”, shows how tobacco negatively impacts health. The CPC-Brooklyn Branch and our Brooklyn team developed the concept for the video with input from over 200 students in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades from six public schools.

Bronx youth and the tobacco marketing she sees on her way to school.

Bronx youth and the tobacco marketing she sees on her way to school.

Our Bronx team hit the streets of the Bronx with over 30 youth from Truman High School, SoBRO, the Girl Scouts, and the Bronx Student Advisory Council to survey the rampant tobacco marketing they encounter each day walking in their neighborhoods of Clason Point, Soundview, Baychester, and West Farms. Using the hashtag, #BXKICKBUTTS, youth shared their findings on social media to raise awareness and show their peers how Big Tobacco targets them.

Our Queens team led an event at the Boys Club of NY Abbe Clubhouse in Flushing during which youth from the organization signed an open letter to let the tobacco industry know that they’ve seen enough tobacco marketing in their community. “Smoking kills and we’ve

Our Queens team and the Boys Club of NY Abbe Clubhouse in Flushing

Our Queens team and the Boys Club of NY Abbe Clubhouse in Flushing.

got to protect kids from the cause,” said Gregory Fleury, Teen Director at the Boys Club of NY Abbe Clubhouse in Flushing. He continued, “Kids think smoking is okay since they see tobacco marketing every day in stores that we go to, but we want to change that.”

Staten Island Reality Check at Curtis High School

Staten Island Reality Check at Curtis High School.

The Staten Island Smoke-Free Partnership joined Staten Island Reality Check, Staten Island Heart Association Youth Board, and other community partners at a meeting at Curtis High School during which students urged their peers to stay tobacco-free and become tobacco control advocates. Sonya Reyes, the Student Organization President, welcomed Reality Check to her school and encouraged students to take center stage in the fight against tobacco.

Partners in the NYC LGBT Smoke-Free Initiative on the first LGBT Kick Butts Day in NYC.

Partners in the NYC LGBT Smoke-Free Initiative on the first LGBT Kick Butts Day in NYC.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth from all five boroughs joined fifteen LGBT health and community-based organizations at The LGBT Community Center (The Center) for the first LGBT Kick Butts Day in New York City. We marked the occasion by publicly launching the NYC LGBT Smoke-Free Initiative.

City Council Member Rosie Mendez (D-District 2) said, “I support the NYC LGBT Smoke-Free Initiative and its efforts to reduce the smoking rates among the LGBT

City Council Member Rosie Mendez speaking to LGBT youth.

City Council Member Rosie Mendez speaking to LGBT youth.

community while simultaneously decreasing the risk of heart disease. Furthermore, I strongly support any effort that would curb the smoking rate for LGBT youths which studies have proven, have a higher percentage of smokers due to additional stressors in their lives.”

We applaud the next generation of youth advocates who took a stand against Big Tobacco on Kick Butts Day and encourage them to continue fighting for their healthy futures.


Big Tobacco’s Mad Men Are at It Again

Smoking-Don-Draper-Jon-Hamm(1)Whenever you’re marketing a product about which the general public hears negative things, Don Draper in AMC’s Mad Men would suggest, “Change the conversation.”

Isn’t that what Big Tobacco is doing with electronic cigarettes?

In an effort to avoid the stigma associated with cigarettes, devices which are essentially e-cigarettes are being marketed cleverly as “hookah pens”, “e-hookahs” or “vape pipes”.  The marketing would have you believe you’re not smoking and exposing those around you to toxic secondhand smoke; you’re “vaping”, and the vapor you exhale is harmless. Yet, you’re likely being exposed to nicotine, which is highly addictive, and there is no conclusion yet potential risks associated with exposure to exhaled vapor.

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