New York State Department of Health Reports Indicate State's Tobacco Control Polices Are Effective In Reducing Tobacco Use, Including Smoking and Vaping

Three New Reports Show Tobacco Control Policies Help Reduce Tobacco Use by Adults and Youths

Highlights Importance of Education and Strong Public Health Policies to Prevent Tobacco Addiction from Starting

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 1, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health Bureau of Tobacco Control is releasing three new reports that point to the effectiveness of ongoing tobacco control policies adopted in the State over the last few years. Among the key findings is continued declines in tobacco use by both adults and youths in New York.

"These reports are solid evidence that our policies aimed at improving health outcomes by restricting the purchase of harmful tobacco products are effective," Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "The intent of banning the sale of flavored vaping products and restrictions on certain other tobacco sales was to prevent young people from starting a deadly addiction and to encourage adults to quit. We've made progress, but have more work to do, both in public education and in policy, to combat this public health threat, including continuing to push for a ban on flavored tobacco products such as menthol."

The State continues to adopt evidence-based measures intended to prevent cigarette use by youths who have not yet started to smoke, as well as those who currently smoke, including increasing the price. The American Lung Association reports that every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about 4% among adults and about 7% among youth. The State's 2024 enacted budget includes an increase in the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1.00, to $5.35, the highest and strongest cigarette tax in the country.

Previous similar measures have proven highly effective at preventing people from becoming addicted as well as encouraging people who smoke to quit. In 2019, New York raised the minimum legal sale age to purchase tobacco and vapor products to 21, established a 20 percent tax on vaping products, and required registration for vapor product retailers to regulate the sale of these products to restrict access, especially among young people.

Those policies were followed in 2020 by several strategies aimed at blocking access to tobacco and especially vaping products by youth and young adults, that, among other things, ended the sale of tobacco and vapor products in pharmacies, banned the sale of flavored vapor products, ended price discounts on tobacco products, and stopped the shipment and delivery of vapor products to private residences.

Three new Department reports bolster the effectiveness of the State policies. The New York Youth Tobacco Survey, a school-based survey of middle and high school students, found a decrease in the use of all tobacco products. The report shows cigarette smoking fell from 27.1% in 2000 to an all-time low of 2.1% among high school students, which represents a decline of 92% in youth smoking rates. Their e-cigarette use, or vaping rate, dropped from a peak of 27.4% in 2018 to 18.7% in 2022, representing a 32% decline.

A second report, the cigarette smoking brief using data from the NYS 2019-2024 Prevention Agenda, the State's health improvement plan, and is advancing in on the goal of reducing cigarette smoking among adults to 11% by 2024.

A third independent report examining the impact of tobacco control policies adopted in 2019 and 2020 also confirms the effectiveness of the State's tobacco control policies. The report, which is part of an independent evaluation of the tobacco control program required by law, found that flavored vaping product sales and use decreased across the State following the implementation of a ban on flavored vaping products and new limits on the legal age to purchase other products. The report looked at vaping product tax revenue as a proxy for use of these products. The report found that the NYS tobacco prevention policies did have their intended effect, with vaping product tax revenue down immediately after the policies took effect, a decrease in vaping product sales, and continued decreases in youth vaping product use. Tobacco-related outcomes have improved in recent years but continued public health protections remain critical. Among youth specifically, the decline in any tobacco use was significant during the time period of these policy changes, dropping from a rate of 30.6% in 2018 to 20.8% in 2022. This has moved New York closer to achieving the Prevention Agenda goal of decreasing of high school youth tobacco use to 19.7% by 2024.

One of the components of the State's tobacco control efforts is the ongoing need to educate the public on the dangers of flavored tobacco products pushed by the tobacco industry, including menthol cigarettes. Menthol flavored products have been specifically targeted through tobacco marketing to attract young people and members of the Black and Hispanic community.

Earlier this year, a policy that would ban the sale of menthol-flavored tobacco products was found to have widespread support from community partners and the public, with surveys showing more than half of New Yorkers supporting such a measure. The NYS Tobacco Control Program website has more information about the Department's efforts to promote a tobacco-free and vape-free society.

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Senior Government Relations Director Michael Davoli said,"When it comes to tobacco control, we know what works to limit use and prevent uptake, among adults and youth alike. The results of the health studies confirm what we already know—banning the sale of flavored products, instituting restrictions on certain tobacco product sales and providing comprehensive tobacco control programming are effective at curbing tobacco use. New York state leaders should consider these studies as building blocks to effect more positive change across the state. We can start in New York City where the City Council is considering legislation to end the sale of menthol cigarettes with Intro 0577."

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Executive Vice President of U.S. Programs John Bowman said,"The declines in tobacco use among both youth and adults in New York is terrific news and a testament to the effectiveness of the strong policies New York has adopted, including high tobacco taxes, the ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, and robust prevention and cessation programs. This progress benefits all New Yorkers by protecting kids, saving lives and reducing tobacco-related healthcare costs. We urge New York to build on this progress by effectively enforcing the ban on flavored e-cigarettes sales and prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes."

Public Health Law Center Commercial Tobacco Control Programs Director Mark Meaney said,"New data from New York State proves comprehensive, evidence-based commercial tobacco control policies protect New Yorkers from the predatory targeting of the tobacco industry. We commend New York on this tremendous success. But to truly achieve health equity and end this epidemic we need more state and local policies that discourage youth from taking up these deadly products while providing an off-ramp for current users."

Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in New York Trevor Summerfield said, "The American Lung Association applauds the leadership of the New York State Department of Health Bureau of Tobacco Control for executing policies designed to decrease tobacco use by both adults and youths in New York. The news of less youth starting the initiation process of a deadly addiction and more adults choosing to quit is welcome, however, more work still needs to be done to address the dangers posed by youth vaping and flavored tobacco products. The Lung Association looks forward to continuing its work with partners in every corner of the state to close loopholes around the sale of e-cigarettes, restrict the sales of all flavored tobacco products, and working to close the gap in health equity that exists in disadvantaged communities that have been subject to historic and ongoing marketing and promotion from the tobacco industry."