Advocates, Public Health Leaders Join New York State Department of Health In Highlighting Governor Hochul Proposal to Ban the Sale of All Flavored tobacco Products, Including Menthol
Ending the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products Outlined in the FY 2023-24 Executive Budget
Marketing and Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products a Key Strategy of the Tobacco Industry
Survey Showed More Than 1/4 of Current Menthol Smokers Favored a Ban
ALBANY, N.Y. (February 9, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health today drew attention to a crucial aspect of Governor Hochul's tobacco reduction strategy, which was unveiled as part of the annual State of the State address. Governor Hochul will introduce legislation that will end the sale of all flavored tobacco products, such as menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars and cigarillos, and flavored smokeless tobacco, expanding upon the State's ban on the sale of flavored vaping products.
If this proposal passes the Legislature, New York would be the third state to do so.
"I commend Governor Hochul for taking on Big Tobacco, which has exploited flavored tobacco to attract young people and target members of the Black and Hispanic community, increasing their risk of death and disease and a lifelong addiction to nicotine," Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "The elimination of flavored tobacco products would safeguard our young people and those who have been addicted at alarmingly high rates as a result of the tobacco industry's marketing efforts. We know that menthol makes tobacco products easier to start and harder to quit, and we look forward to working with the Legislature to pass this life-saving legislation."
Making flavored tobacco products widely available is a key marketing strategy of the tobacco industry. According to the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey, 80% of middle and high school tobacco users report using flavored products. Total tobacco use (including smoking, vaping, and other tobacco use) is as high among youth now as it was 20 years ago. This is alarming as nicotine is highly addictive, and particularly harms the developing adolescent brain, affecting attention, learning, mood, and impulse control, increasing the risk for future addiction to other drugs, and worsening mental health outcomes.
According to the Department's 2022 Chronic Disease Public Opinion Poll, the majority of respondents were in favor of such a bill, and only 28% of respondents were opposed. A 2018 Truth Initiative survey showed that support for a menthol ban is especially strong among African-Americans (60.5%) and other groups who have been targeted by the tobacco industry, including Hispanic/Latinos (69.3%). The Truth Initiative survey also found more than 1 in 4 current menthol smokers (28.5%) favored a ban.
The tobacco industry's influence in New York State continues to drive commercial tobacco-related disparities and inequities; annually, the tobacco industry spends $9.1 billion (almost $1 million every hour) to market and promote their deadly and addictive products nationally and of that total, an estimated $177.3 million is spent in the Empire State each year. For more than 60 years, the tobacco industry has specifically targeted Black communities with menthol tobacco product marketing and promotions. In New York State, menthol cigarettes are used by over half of all adult smokers (52%), while 86% of Black and 72% of Hispanic smokers exclusively smoke menthol cigarettes.
New York State has had tremendous policy accomplishments in tobacco control the past few years. These include in 2019 raising the minimum legal age to purchase tobacco to 21 years of age, and in 2020, ending the sale of all tobacco products in pharmacies, restricting the sale of flavored e-liquids and online sale of all vaping products, restricting the use of coupons and other discounts that that lower the cost of tobacco products, and implementing a tax on vapor products.
Despite these critical policy successes and progress in reducing smoking tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death in New York State and the United States. Approximately 1.7 million New Yorkers continue to smoke cigarettes. Every year in New York, smoking kills 28,000 adults and a projected 280,000 children now under the age of 18 and alive in New York State will die prematurely from smoking.
Ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products including menthol is a critical step to protecting the lives of all New Yorkers. It would significantly reduce health care expenditures, disease, and death from tobacco product use, reduce addiction and youth experimentation, increase the number of smokers that quit, and meaningfully advance health equity by addressing tobacco-related health inequities and disparities.
The Department's Bureau of Tobacco Control administers the state's comprehensive Tobacco Control Program to reduce illness, disability, and death related to commercial tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure, and to alleviate social and economic inequities caused by tobacco use. The program uses an evidence-based, policy-driven, and population-level approach to tobacco control and prevention with a commitment to promote health equity among populations disproportionately impacted by tobacco marketing and use.
Chair of the Senate Health Committee State Senator Gustavo Rivera said, "I commend Governor Hochul for proposing a ban on sales of flavored tobacco products in her budget. This measure will put an overdue stop to Big Tobacco's long-standing efforts to market harmful products, particularly to youths of color who became targets of this malicious marketing strategy. As Chair of the Senate Health Committee, I am committed to working with this administration and my colleagues to pass this measure and protect New Yorkers' health from the unquestionable dangers of tobacco use and smoking."
Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health Assembly Member Amy Paulin said, "Banning flavored tobacco products, combined with programs to help people quit and campaigns that educate the public, will lead to fewer people smoking and save lives. Over the past several decades there has been tremendous progress made in getting people to stop smoking. Flavored tobacco products however make it easier to start smoking, especially for young adults who are trying cigarettes for the first time, and takes us in the wrong direction. For this reason I'm 100% behind banning flavored tobacco products."
State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal said, "Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Tobacco companies specifically target youth and communities of color with flavored products, which are highly addictive and worsen a slew of physical and mental health outcomes. By banning the sale of all flavored tobacco products, Governor Hochul is rightly putting public health over profits and building off the important work of the state legislature. I am glad to see the Executive Budget raises the tax on cigarettes and bans flavored tobacco products, policies I have long championed. I look forward to enacting these policies to ensure more lives are saved."
Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn said, "I applaud Governor Kathy Hochul for fighting Big Tobacco and protecting New Yorkers through legislation to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products. When I was 20 years old, menthol cigarettes quickly hooked my father into a deadly cycle that we're too familiar with, and like many New Yorkers, he passed far too early. Decades later, it is appalling that smoking tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death in New York State, and that youth tobacco product use is skyrocketing. I have sponsored bills to end Big Tobacco's predatory practices that target and disproportionately affect our youth, and Blacks and minorities. I'm dedicated to working with the Governor and NYSDOH to save lives through these vital efforts."
President of the NAACP New York State Conference Dr. Hazel N. Dukes said, "I applaud Governor Hochul for taking on Big Tobacco to finally end its immoral and discriminatory practice of targeting kids with flavored tobacco, particularly menthol. I support this health measure because it will help reduce the health inequities facing African American communities throughout New York State. If we don't act now, tobacco companies will stop at nothing to continue targeting communities of color—particularly Black youth—with these highly addictive, poisonous, and life-threatening products."
Director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, "Governor Hochul understands that banning the sale of flavored tobacco products would be a huge step in ending Big Tobacco's marketing of these highly addictive and dangerous products to our children and communities of color. Eliminating flavored tobacco products will protect our children and greatly reduce the number of Black and Brown children who will grow up to become addicted to products that research has shown jeopardizes their health and shortens their lifespan. I urge the Legislature to enact this critical legislation that will save lives and reduce health-related inequities and disparities in communities of color."
Co-Chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council Dr. Phillip Gardiner said, "We applaud Governor Hochul for fighting to end the sale of menthol cigarettes in New York. For decades Big Tobacco has preyed upon Black New Yorkers with menthol cigarettes leading to much higher rates of cancer, heart disease, stroke and death. Ending the sale of menthol cigarettes is the single most significant action the state can take to save black lives."
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids President Matthew L. Myers said, "Gov. Hochul's bold plan will protect kids from tobacco addiction, advance health equity and save lives. This is a critically important proposal to stop the tobacco industry's predatory targeting of kids, Black Americans and other groups with flavored products, including menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. The evidence is clear that flavors hook kids, and research shows that 81% of kids who have ever used a tobacco product started with a flavored product."
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Senior Government Relations Director, Michael Davoli said, "Governor Hochul's Executive Budget marks a historic step in the fight to prevent cancer, particularly in the areas of tobacco use prevention. Governor Hochul's decision to pair a $1 per pack increase in the cigarette tax with a proposal to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and all other flavored tobacco products is the aggressive action we need to curtail tobacco use and save lives. We encourage legislative leaders to support these proposals and ensure that they are enacted in the final budget."
Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in New York Trevor Summerfield said, "The Governor's announcement today during the 2024 Executive Budget presentation of her intention to remove all flavored tobacco products including menthol cigarettes from New York State shelves, in addition to increasing the cigarette tax from $4.35 to $5.35 per pack are critical moves promoting health equity, social justice and the lung health of all New Yorkers. These measures would catapult New York back into being a nationwide leader in tobacco control efforts. The Lung Association looks forward to working with Governor Hochul and the New York State Legislature to ensure these life-saving policies are passed and enacted into law, and that the state's tobacco control program is adequately funded to assist all New Yorkers who are ready to quit tobacco use."
American Heart Association Capital Region Director Alumni Relations and Board Member Joan Clifford, Sr. said, "Every life that has been lost to tobacco addiction could have been prevented. Tobacco use is a leading cause of heart disease, and by prohibiting the retail sale of flavored tobacco products and increasing the cigarette tax, we can help our next generations live longer, healthier lives free of addiction, preventable disease and premature death."
Executive Director at The Center for Black Health & Equity Delmonte Jefferson said, "Making menthol cigarettes the favorite among African American smokers is one of Big Tobacco's oldest and most sinister marketing ploys. Today, menthols are a main reason that tobacco-related illnesses kill a higher percentage of Black Americans. Worse yet, the tobacco industry, for decades, has been paying activists to help them cover the fact that these products are killing our community. It's time we end Big Tobacco's big lie, their discriminating deception, and targeted campaigns, and stop their ability to kill us one menthol at a time."
American Medical Association Chief Health Equity Officer and Senior Vice President Aletha Maybank, M.D., M.P.H. said, "As a New Yorker and as a physician, I know too well the harm inflicted on New Yorkers by highly addictive, flavored tobacco products. Ending the sale of these dangerous products is an important step that will undoubtedly save lives," said, which strongly supports anti-tobacco policies and initiatives to protect youth. "For far too long, flavored tobacco products have been deliberately marketed to young people in communities of color—which is why it is critical that we work together to prevent a new generation from being lured into addiction, and suffering preventable disease
, and death."
Co-Founder of Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes Meredith Berkman said, "We applaud Governor Hochul for taking on Big Tobacco in such a comprehensive way. Her budget proposal to strengthen the state's law to protect kids from flavored vapes and finally remove menthol cigarettes, the deadliest flavored tobacco product in history, will protect kids, save lives, and reduce health disparities among Black New Yorkers."
President and CEO of the Community Service Society David R. Jones said, "Historically, tobacco companies have aggressively marketed their products in Black and Latino communities, raking in billions in profits while disregarding the devastating health consequences. No wonder Black Americans die from lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and other tobacco-related diseases at higher rates than others. Governor Hochul's proposal to end the sale of flavored tobacco products in the state, including menthol cigarettes, will help save lives and put the tobacco industry on notice that in New York, their ruthless exploitation of young people and communities of color in pursuit of a buck is over."
New York State Association of County Health Officials (NYSACO) Executive Director Sarah Ravenhall said, "New York's local public health community applauds Governor Hochul's call to prohibit menthol flavored tobacco products. State law already bans virtually every other flavored tobacco product because of the significant threats they present to the health and wellbeing of our communities. Adding menthol to the existing ban is long overdue, not simply as a public health measure but also as a health equity imperative since menthol tobacco use disproportionately impacts African-American, Latino and Asian communities. This proposal is a clear indication that the Governor is serious about addressing health disparities and we strongly encourage the Legislature to adopt her plan."
Tobacco Industry Marketing:
- Counter Tobacco Media Gallery
- CTFK - Tobacco Company Marketing to African Americans
- AHA - Pics of direct tobacco exec language targeting menthol cigs among youth, women, and Black Americans
- Methods Used by The Industry to Target Youth, Women, & Black Americans
- AATCLC - Images + Link to movie Black Lives Black Lungs
For help with quitting, including counseling and medication, talk to your healthcare provider. For information on how to quit smoking or vaping tobacco or nicotine, the New York State Smokers' Quitline provides free and confidential services that include information, tools, quit coaching, and support in both English and Spanish. Services are available by calling 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487), texting (716) 309-4688, or visiting www.nysmokefree.com, for information, to chat online with a Quit Coach, or to sign up for Learn2QuitNY, a six-week, step-by-step text messaging program to build the skills you need to quit any tobacco product.
Individuals aged 13 to 24 can text "DropTheVape" to 88709 to receive age-appropriate quit assistance. The Department of Health is running a statewide digital media campaign to promote this confidential texting service.
More information about the Department's Tobacco Control Program is available here.