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
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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).
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.
- 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).
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.
- 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).
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.More Info
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.Get Involved
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.Get Involved
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.
Over the past several years, we have launched a number of successful media campaigns to support our tobacco control and smoke-free policy initiatives.Get Involved
Meet the team! We are the people behind the people.
Vonetta Dudley, MA, CHES
Vonetta Dudley, MA, CHESDirector
Vonetta Dudley is the Director of NYC Smoke-Free at Public Health Solutions, where she works to end the devastating tobacco epidemic and protect the health of New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy, and education. She joined the team back in 2014 as a Reality Check Manager, where she worked with local youth, helping to empower them, develop their advocacy skills and nurtured them into strong student leaders for their community. Before joining Public Health Solutions, she worked at Urban Health Plan, Inc. as a Health Educator for the Adolescent Health Center. She was also the Program Coordinator for the Pediatric Department program “Fit for Life” where she spearheaded an infant-toddler obesity prevention program. Vonetta’s goal has always been to educate community members and residents how they can live longer and healthier lives by becoming advocates of their own health.
Marcus BuitragoProgram Coordinator
Marcus Buitrago is the Program Coordinator of NYC-Smoke Free at Public Health Solutions. Marcus is passionate about educating the youth, environmental justice, community advocacy, food and nutrition through the promotion of health which ultimately leads to prevention of disease/illness. Prior to joining Public Health Solutions, he worked at New York University as a Assistant Field Supervisor/Assistant Research Scientist. He has also worked as a Team Supervisor for the NYSDOH Virtual Call Center COVID-19 Contact Tracing initiative to help combat the pandemic. Marcus was born and raised in NYC where he has been giving back to various communities as a professional, volunteer, and community well-being advocate.
Bronx Community Engagement Manager
Guillermo FloresBronx Community Engagement Manager
Guillermo Flores, Jr. is the Bronx Community Engagement Manager of NYC Smoke-Free at Public Health Solutions, where he works to end the devastating tobacco epidemic and protect the health of all New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy, and education. Prior to joining Public Health Solutions, he worked at the American Cancer Society, where he served as a Community Mission Manager and Director of Health Care Systems and Worksite Initiatives. He has also worked in institutions that serve communities in NYC declared “health crisis zones” by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Born and reared in the Bronx, it is Guillermo’s professional and personal goal to help all Bronxites live longer, healthier lives.
Angela Hanson, MS
Bronx Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager
Angela Hanson, MSBronx Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager
Angela Hanson, M.S, is the Bronx Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager of NYC Smoke-Free at Public Health Solutions, where she works to end the devastating tobacco epidemic and protect the health of all New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy, and education. Born and raised in the Bronx, Angela is excited to give back to the community in which she grew up. Prior to this role, Angela worked as an Admissions Recruiter for Mercy College at the Bronx Campus. Angela attended the University of Saint Joseph for both undergraduate and graduate study in which she received a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Science in Biology with a Certificate in Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Julia Cuthbertson, MPH
Brooklyn Community Engagement Manager
Julia Cuthbertson, MPHBrooklyn Community Engagement Manager
Julia Cuthbertson is the Brooklyn Community Engagement Manager of NYC Smoke-Free at Public Health Solutions, where she works to end the devastating tobacco epidemic and protect the health of all New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy, and education. Prior to joining Public Health Solutions, she worked on obesity prevention by increasing healthy food access as a consultant at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and as the Social Media Strategist for With Food in Mind. Since 2010, she has also collaborated with NoFumadores.org, Spain’s leading tobacco control advocacy group.
Brittany Hale, MPH, CHES
Brooklyn Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager
Brittany Hale, MPH, CHESBrooklyn Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager
Brittany Hale (she/her) is the Brooklyn Youth Engagement Manager of NYC Smoke-Free at Public Health Solutions, where she works to end the devastating tobacco epidemic and protect the health of all New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy, and education. Prior to this role, Brittany worked as both a Case Investigator and Data Analyst for the Test and Trace Corps at NYC Health + Hospitals. She attended Arizona State University for undergraduate studies in Global Health and Justice Studies and received a Masters in Public Health with a Certificate in Health Promotion, Research, and Practice from Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.
Stefanie Mercado Altman, MScPH
Manhattan Community Engagement Manager
Stefanie Mercado Altman, MScPHManhattan Community Engagement Manager
Stefanie is the Manhattan Community Engagement Manager of NYC Smoke-Free at Public Health Solutions, where she works to end the devastating tobacco epidemic and protect the health of all New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy, and education. Prior to working at PHS, she worked with Medicare and Medicaid recipients enrolling them in government and community programs to access essential services they needed. She also worked at the Montefiore School Health Program as a Community Health Organizer, where she coordinated, implemented, and taught health education and youth development classes, as well as helped implement school wellness policies. Stefanie earned her Bachelors in Anthropology at Ithaca College in 2013. She went on to get her Master of Science in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 2015.
Ayodele Alli, MS
Manhattan Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager
Ayodele Alli, MSManhattan Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager
Ayo Alli, M.S, is the Manhattan Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager of NYC Smoke-Free at Public Health Solutions, where he works to end the devastating tobacco epidemic and protect the health of all New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy, and education. Ayo joins Public Health Solutions, with experience in coordinating youth engagement and educational equality programs, outreach implementation in disaster recovery nonprofit organizations and a passion for eradicating the epidemic that tobacco smoke represents to a youthful demographic. He attended the University of Michigan for his undergraduate studies in Political Science and African-American studies, as well as a Master of Science in Information Policy.
Queens Community Engagement Manager
Lawrence SaundersQueens Community Engagement Manager
Lawrence Saunders is the Queens Community Engagement Manager where he works to end the devastating tobacco epidemic and protect the health of all New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy, and education. He joins us with over 20 years of community engagement and government relations experience. Prior to joining Public Health Solutions, Lawrence led and collaborated in forging successful partnership alliances on projects with various elected officials, CBO, corporate, community and city agency leaders. Lawrence has a passion for standing up for the rights of others and has successfully advocated of behalf many. He has a well-rounded background in project management, customer service, program assessment and management. Lawrence has worked in corporate and non-profit organizations. He also served as Legislative and Budget Director at the NYC Council and is experienced with working with legislators on the city, state and federal level. Lawrence graduated summa cum laude from Medgar Evers College, with a Bachelor degree in Public Administration and he also has a Master’s degree in Theology.
Queens Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager
Ayisha GreenQueens Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager
Ayisha Green is the Queens Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager of NYC Smoke-Free at Public Health Solutions, where she works to end the devastating tobacco epidemic and protect the health of New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy, and education. a Queens born and based organizer and Public Health practitioner passionate about advancing health equity; Ayisha works to bring youth in Queens to the center the conversations addressing tobacco through empowering information, dialogue, and impactful experiences.
Staten Island Community Engagement Manager
Frederick MarteStaten Island Community Engagement Manager
Frederick Marte is the Staten Island Community Engagement Manager of NYC Smoke-Free at Public Health Solutions, where he works to end the devastating tobacco epidemic and protect the health of all New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy, and education. Prior to joining Public Health Solutions, he worked at Kingsbridge Heights Community Center (KHCC), where he served as the Youth Leadership Coordinator and SONYC Saturday Program Manager. There he coordinated leadership initiatives while leading a 15-25 intern Youth Council, elevated the youth department’s visibility on social media, and managed partnerships with activity specialists, community partners, CBOs, and elected officials. Through his work with the KHCConnect team, he engaged Spanish-speaking adults around concrete resources, including housing referrals, SNAP benefits, and emergency assistance (e.g. food, bills, etc.). As someone dedicated to ensuring equity and advocacy, he has managed projects that aim to decrease food insecurity, predatory marketing surrounding vapes, and injustices faced by the BIPOC community. Frederick earned his Bachelors in Theatre and Philosophy at Muhlenberg College in 2020. He is currently pursuing his Master of Social Work at Touro College, where he has been admitted into the Leadership and Management Fellowship cohort.
Staten Island Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager
COMING SOONStaten Island Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager
Staten Island Reality Check Youth Engagement Manager coming soon…
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:
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: