Written by Julia Cuthbertson, Brooklyn Community Engagement Coordinator
As 2017 comes to an end, we should reflect upon the major strides that New York City has made this year in tobacco control.
- A package comprehensive tobacco bills passed in the NYC Council that will further protect New Yorkers from dangerous secondhand smoke exposure and reduce the availability of tobacco products across the boroughs.
- The NYC Smoke-Free Reality Check program has addressed hundreds of teens about the predatory marketing practices of big tobacco.
- NYC Smoke-Free has continued to assist buildings go smoke-free, ensuring over 38,000 families receive smoke-free protections to breathe easy at home.
- Next summer, almost half a million NYCHA residents will also enjoy healthier living as the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s new smoke-free housing rule goes into effect.
Perhaps most importantly, we have seen the smoking rate decrease to 13.1% among adult New Yorkers, continuing a significant downward trend over the last 15 years since the passing of the NYC Smoke-Free Air Act. The current rate represents a 39% decline in smoking from the 2002 prevalence rate. This dramatic reduction in smoking and tobacco exposure is proof that New York’s comprehensive approach to tobacco control and prevention has been remarkably effective in preventing kids from starting to smoke, helping adult smokers quit, and serving as a counter to the tobacco industry’s aggressive marketing and negative influence. Looking ahead to 2018, we must recommit ourselves to the work we do to protect the health and wellbeing of ALL New York City families. Despite the progress we’ve made, there are still nearly 870,000 adult smokers in New York City, and significant disparities in smoking and secondhand smoke exposure continue to exist – such as in communities of color and populations with limited income or education. Dangerous new products such as e-cigarettes and vape pens with dubious health claims continue to flood the market, attracting young people in particular. Another harsh reality is menthol cigarette advertising and availability, which continues to plague African American communities at disproportionate rates, as has been the case for decades. As resources for tobacco control programs such as ours becomes less secure, we will work harder to advocate for all vulnerable populations who have historically not had a voice. This holiday season, we at NYC Smoke-Free would like to spread a message of hope for New Yorkers who wish to rid their lives of tobacco smoke, and send wishes for a New Year that allowseveryone to breathe clean, smoke-free air where they live, work and play.