About Us

NYC Smoke-Free, a program of Public Health Solutions, works to protect the health of New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy, and education. We partner with community members, legislators, and health advocates to support local efforts to end the devastating tobacco epidemic throughout NYC, where close to 1 million residents smoke. Most smokers start and become hooked before age 18 – it is unacceptable for NYC youth to be lured into a life of tobacco addiction. Every NYC resident has the right to breathe clean, smoke-free air where they live, work, and play, and people who smoke deserve the support and resources to quit.

Tobacco use remains the #1 cause of preventable death in the United States, killing over 480,000 annually.¹ In New York City, 12,000 residents die from a smoking-related illness every year.² Our advocacy efforts serve to foster environments that support the prevention and reduction of tobacco use through the development and reinforcement of tobacco-free norms in communities throughout New York City. While employing a two-pronged approach via youth action and community engagement, we utilize a community-based strategy which includes community education, community mobilization, government policy-maker education, and advocacy with organizational decision-makers.

¹ U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2015 Aug 17].

² Public Health Solutions (2018). LGBT Tobacco Disparities. https://www.healthsolutions.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/LGBT-Disparities-2018.pdf

Key Issues

  • Limiting youth exposure and access to tobacco marketing and advertising of flavored tobacco products. 
  • Increasing the number of apartment buildings, co-ops, and condominiums that are 100% smoke-free. 
  • Increasing the number of smoke-free outdoor spaces. 
  • Reducing tobacco imagery in youth rated movies and youth friendly internet sites.
  • Engaging youth and community partners to build support for a smoke-free city and end tobacco health disparities.

Smoke-Free Movies

Big Tobacco has a long history of using movies to glamorize smoking and recruit young new smokers. NYC Smoke-Free is dedicated to drive policies that cut smoking imagery in movies and strengthen youth rating regulations. 

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Key Facts

  • In 2020, 32% of PG-13 rated movies included tobacco imagery (Truth Initiative, 2022).
  • Almost 90% of people who initiate smoking due to onscreen exposure start smoking before age 18 (Truth Initiative, 2022).
  • 13,000 NYC public high school students smoke — as a result, 1/3 of them will die prematurely (NYC Health, 2020).

Tobacco-Free Outdoor Air

Tobacco-Free Outdoor Policies (TFO) are voluntary policies adopted by businesses, community institutions, and faith-based organizations to ban smoking on outdoor property.

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Key Facts

  • Each year, secondhand smoke causes an estimated 7,330 and 34,000 non-smoker deaths from lung cancer and heart disease, respectively (NYS DOH, 2018).
  • Smoking in outdoor spaces is an ongoing health hazard that exposes thousands of New Yorkers to secondhand smoke every day.
  • Since 1964, 2.5 million adults who were non-smokers died due to secondhand smoke (NYS DOH, 2018).

Housing Inequality

Smoke-free housing should not be a luxury out of reach for all New Yorkers, including families in public or affordable housing, who deserve to breathe clean, smoke-free air free from toxic nicotine.

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Key Facts

  • In NYC, luxury condominiums, co-ops, and market-rate rentals are increasingly smoke-free.
  • A poll conducted by NYC DOHMH and NYCHA found that 75% of NYCHA residents preferred to live in a building where smoking was not allowed anywhere inside the building, including apartments. Additionally, 64% of residents responded that all NYC public housing or projects should be smoke-free (Farley et al., 2016).
  • NYCHA residents are twice as likely to report having asthma as NYC adults overall (Farley et al., 2016).

Tobacco Disparities

The tobacco epidemic is far from over and significant disparities in tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure persist for far too many New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable. NYC Smoke-Free is committed to building health equity to put an end to the devastating tobacco epidemic.

 

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Key Facts

  • Tobacco remains the #1 cause of premature, preventable death for New Yorkers and 1 out of every 3 smokers will die from smoking-related diseases.
  • Over 22,000 New Yorkers – including 12,000 in NYC – continue to die every year from tobacco.
  • Studies have found disturbing tobacco disparities in immigrant populations, with higher smoking rates for Black, Latinx, and Asian/Pacific Islander men. Smoking rates are also higher for LGBTQIA2S+ folks (Merizier et al., 2022).
  • Vaping and e-cigarette use has skyrocketed among young New Yorkers. In 2018, 45,000 NYC youth reported using e-cigarettes or vaping products in the last month (NYC Health, 2019).
  • The use of menthol cigarettes is disproportionately high among certain groups of smokers. In NYC, for example, 86% of Black smokers use menthol cigarettes, compared to 36% of white smokers (NY BTC, 2021).

Tobacco Proliferation

Many New Yorkers are seeing more and more tobacco in our communities. And in some of our most vulnerable communities, tobacco is both persistent and pervasive: chronic disparities of higher tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure rates are coupled with widespread availability of dangerous tobacco products.

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Key Facts

  • NYC neighborhoods are already swamped with over 8,000 tobacco outlets (American Cancer Society, 2017).
  • Compared to students across the US, New York City students were more likely to get their own tobacco vaping products by purchasing them in a local store.
  • In NYC, 94% of public schools are within 1,000 feet (~2 city blocks) from a tobacco retailer (ASPiRE Center, 2020).

Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS)

Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), more commonly known as e-cigarettes, or vaping, has significantly increased over the past few years.

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Key Facts

  • ENDS are considered tobacco products because they contain nicotine, a derivative of tobacco.
  • Use of ENDS is strongly linked to the use of other tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, hookah, and smokeless tobacco—especially among youth.
  • ENDs are not FDA-approved as a quit aid and research is still being conducted on their effectiveness as such (FDA, 2023)
  • E-cigarettes were the most common tobacco product used among middle and high school students (2.06 million) in 2021 (NYTS, 2021).

Flavored Tobacco: Menthol

While smoking rates are seeing an overall decline, the use of flavors in tobacco products has seriously jeopardized recent progress. One flavor in particular, menthol, has had a particularly harmful impact on health – which is often overlooked.

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Key Facts

  • Menthol cigarette smokers have lower rates of quitting than traditional cigarette smokers (Truth Initiative, 2022).
  • The use of menthol cigarettes is disproportionate among smokers, with 86% of African-American smokers in NYC using menthol cigarettes compared to 36% of white smokers (NYS BTC, 2021).
  • 64% of Latinx smokers use menthol cigarettes.

Programs

Community Engagement

Utilizing outreach, education, advocacy, partnership and communication, NYC Smoke-Free actively engages community members and key stakeholders (local community boards, community based organizations, and influential decision makers) to support the prevention and reduction of tobacco use.

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Reality Check

Reality Check is a student-led, adult-supported, statewide engagement and action program for youth 13-18. Students who join NYC Smoke-Free’s Reality Check program participate and lead activities and events to help expose the tobacco industry and reduce the number of teens that initiate smoking.

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Policymaker Education

Government officials, such as City Council Members, State Assembly Member, and State Senators play a critical role in our society and can also be powerful voices in the fight against the tobacco industry.

 

 

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Media Campaigns

Over the past several years, we have launched a number of successful media campaigns to support our tobacco control and smoke-free policy initiatives.

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Our Team

Meet the team! We are the people behind the people.

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Vonetta Dudley, MA, CHES

Director
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Marcus Buitrago

Program Coordinator
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Guillermo Flores

Bronx Community Engagement Manager
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Angela Hanson, MS

Bronx Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager
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Julia Cuthbertson, MPH

Brooklyn Community Engagement Manager
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Brooklyn Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager… Coming Soon
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Stefanie Mercado Altman, MScPH

Manhattan Community Engagement Manager
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Ayodele Alli, MS

Manhattan Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager
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Queens Community Engagement Manager
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Ayisha Green

Queens Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager
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Frederick Marte

Staten Island Community Engagement Manager
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Courtney Oliver, LMSW

Staten Island Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager

Partners

We partner with community members, legislators, and local health advocates to promote a smoke-free city through neighborhood-based efforts, information sharing, and policy change.  Our success would not be possible without a number of health and youth-focused organizations throughout NYC:

Additional Partners

NYC Smoke-Free is an Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities (ATFC) Partner:

The New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Tobacco Control funds NYC Smoke-Free at Public Health Solutions to increase support for New York State’s tobacco-free norm through youth action and community engagement. Efforts are evidence-based, policy-driven, and cost-effective approaches that decrease youth tobacco use, motivate adult smokers to quit, and eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke. Learn more about statewide efforts below: