Oct. 30 2013
WASHINGTON, DC – Today New York City has once again taken historic action to further reduce tobacco use, the number one cause of preventable death. We commend the New York City Council for approving bills that establish a minimum price for cigarettes and little cigars, stop tobacco industry discounting schemes and prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. These bold steps will dramatically reduce youth tobacco use and serve as models for the rest of the United States and the world.
We applaud Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Council members for their strong leadership in the fight against tobacco and for championing the new legislation. These measures will build on New York City’s global leadership in the fight against tobacco and continue the city’s progress in reducing smoking.
These bills are based on sound scientific evidence. We know that increasing the price of tobacco products is the most effective way to reduce tobacco use, especially among kids. New York City has driven down smoking with the highest combined state-city cigarette tax of $5.85 per pack. Tobacco companies have fought back by spending billions to discount tobacco prices and introducing cheap, sweet small cigars. One of the bills will curtail these harmful practices by banning the redemption of coupons and other discounting strategies for tobacco products; creating a minimum price for cigarettes and little cigars; and requiring that cheap cigars be sold in packs of at least four. These steps will discourage kids from smoking and encourage smokers to quit.
The second bill will increase the minimum sale age for tobacco products to 21. Nearly all smokers start as kids or young adults, and these age groups are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry. National data shows that 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. The ages of 18 to 21 are a critical period when many smokers move from experimental smoking to regular, daily use. Increasing the tobacco sale age to 21 will help prevent young people from ever starting to smoke. It will also help keep tobacco out of high school, where younger students often turn to older friends and classmates as sources of cigarettes. New York City will be the first major city or state to have a minimum tobacco sale age of 21.
A third bill, to prohibit store displays of tobacco products, was withdrawn by the City Health Department for further study. While we believe the proposed display ban is good public health policy that would help reduce smoking, we support the decision to postpone consideration of this proposal to permit review of the full range of issues involved.
New York City has significantly reduced both youth and adult smoking by implementing higher tobacco taxes, a comprehensive smoke-free air law and hard-hitting tobacco prevention and cessation campaigns. The tobacco industry never lets up in pushing its deadly and addictive products. New York City’s leaders rightly recognize that they can’t let up in their efforts to reduce smoking and save lives.