Jun. 2 2005
Washington, DC — Dramatic declines in adult smoking rates reported Tuesday by New York state provide powerful new evidence of the effectiveness of science-based tobacco control measures, including smoke-free workplace laws, higher tobacco taxes and comprehensive, well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Smoking among New York adults declined by 12 percent in just one year, from 21.5 percent in 2003 to 18.9 percent in 2004, according to the New York State Department of Health’s Adult Tobacco Survey. In contrast, adult smoking rates nationwide declined just four percent from 2002 to 2003, the latest year for which data has been released, and at even slower rates in recent years, according to a study released last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2003, 21.6 percent of adults nationwide smoked, according to the CDC. New York’s experience shows that we can significantly accelerate smoking declines nationwide and save millions of lives and billions in smoking-caused health care costs if proven tobacco control measures are implemented in every state.
New York State is one of the few states that have implemented all three of the best proven policies to reduce smoking - a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law, including restaurants and bars, that took effect statewide on July 24, 2003 (New York City’s law took effect March 30, 2003); a high cigarette tax of $1.50 per pack (New York City levies an additional cigarette tax, also $1.50 per pack); and effective programs to help smokers quit and prevent kids from starting in the first place.
Other states and communities that have implemented these measures also have reported smoking declines far surpassing national trends. New York City, for example, reported an 11 percent decline in adult smoking from 2002 to 2003. California, which was the first state to fully implement all of these tobacco control measures, has reduced adult smoking by 25 percent more than the nation as a whole and now has an adult smoking rate of just 15.4 percent. The evidence is clear that we know how to reduce tobacco use and its terrible toll in health, lives and money. All we need is the political will to enact these proven policies.
We applaud New York’s elected leaders who have championed tobacco prevention and cessation initiatives, the public health advocates who have fought for these measures and the public health professionals who are implementing them. They should all be proud of the state’s historic smoking declines. New York’s challenge now is to avoid complacency and redouble its efforts. Tobacco use is still the state’s leading preventable cause of death, claiming more than 24,600 lives each year and costing the state $7.52 billion annually in health care bills, including $5 billion in Medicaid payments alone. Government expenditures related to tobacco amount to a hidden tax of $842 each year on every New York household.
It is very good news that New York’s leaders increased funding for tobacco prevention in Fiscal Year 2006 by $6 million to $45.4 million a year, but this is still less than half the minimum amount of $95.8 million recommended by the CDC. In contrast, the tobacco companies are spending a record $535.1 million a year to market cigarettes and other tobacco products in New York, amounting to nearly 12 times what the state spends on tobacco prevention. We urge New York’s leaders to continue to increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation and to continue their support for other proven measures to reduce tobacco use.