Our 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.
The U.S. Surgeon General’s report on The Health Consequences of Smoking reminds us just how far we’ve come over the last 50 years in our efforts to control tobacco use and prevent our youth from lighting up. Smoking rates have more than halved since 1964 (42 percent compared to 18 percent in 2012). Thanks to our comprehensive tobacco control programs at the national and local levels,eight million Americans have been saved from premature death, and their lives have been extended by an average of almost 20 years.
While the smoking rate in NYC is lower for youth and adults than the national rates, the recently released Mayor’s Management Report shows that the adult smoking rate, currently at 15.5%, has remained essentially unchanged since 2010.
Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his budget. In previous budgets, successful health awareness and prevention programs were funded as line items in the budget. The Governor’s new proposal lumps the tobacco control program budget into one pool for chronic disease and prevention. That means that we would essentially need to compete with other important and successful health programs for fewer vital resources.
The proposed budget would make the funding of these programs less transparent to taxpayers and ultimately reduce aid. Consolidating budget lines as Cuomo suggests gives the Legislature less power to add or subtract funding under state law.
While we understand that times are tough, we think transparency goes a long way. A budget clearly states an administration’s priorities, and the NYS Tobacco Control Program is no longer a line item on the proposed budget. While we have had tremendous gains in reducing smoking rates, we fear they may stall without a strong commitment to saving dollars and lives.
Like most of you, report cards were always a big deal in my household when I was growing up. I can only imagine what would have happened if I came home with two A’s and two F’s!
Those are the grades New York State earned in the American Lung Association’s recently released State of Tobacco Control 2013 report. While the report gives New York a “thumbs up” for having the highest cigarette tax in the nation and praises the state’s strong smoke-free indoor air laws, the state again received “F’s” for inadequately funding its tobacco control program and failing to remove the barriers that prevent New Yorkers from accessing needed smoking cessation services. You might say that New York failed to protect children from Big Tobacco’s marketing tactics by neglecting to invest in programs and policies proven to reduce tobacco use.
Federal Court Judge Gladys Kessler has ruled that Big Tobacco needs to just stick to the facts. Specifically, she’s ordered tobacco companies to publish corrective statements that say they lied to us about the dangers of smoking and simply state the deadly health effects of smoking. As we wrote in our Letter to the Editor published in today’s New York Times, these statements are not “forced public confessions,” just the indisputable truth.