Reality Check Youth were at the Capitol on Feb. 4, talking with lawmakers about the success of the state’s Tobacco Control Program at lowering the average smoking rate to 12.8 percent and about the unmet needs in tobacco control efforts, particularly among youth and certain communities. They met with Senator Fred Akshar and Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo to explain an interactive display in The Well of the Legislative Office Building, revealing the true facts behind Big Tobacco’s misleading marketing.
The youth stressed that e-cigarette use by high schoolers continues to rise, now at 27 percent. In contrast, only 3.8 percent of adult New Yorkers use e-cigarettes. Additionally, nearly 40 percent of 12th graders use e-cigarettes statewide.Research shows that youth who use e-cigarettes are four times more likely to start smoking conventional cigarettes than their peers who do not vape.
“Successfully reducing the average adult smoking rate to 12.8 percent in New York State is a huge achievement, but newer nicotine products, like e-cigarettes, could reverse the big gains we’ve made in reducing smoking,” said Lilly Bouton, Reality Check youth advocate and student at Owego Free Academy.
She added, “We know that marketing attracts youth to e-cigarettes, flavors are what gets kids to try them and nicotine is what keeps them addicted. Twenty-nine percent of Broome County high school students reported using electronic cigarettes in the last 30 days in 2019.”
In Tioga County, 18 percent of high school seniors reported using electronic cigarettes in the last 30 days.
“Although the average smoking rate is down, cigarette smoking rates among certain communities are considerably higher than average. For example, throughout New York State, 25.5 percent of adults reporting frequent mental distress smoke cigarettes, as do 20 percent of those with less than a high school education and nearly 20 percent of those with an annual household income of less than $25,000,” said Laura Kelly, Reality Check coordinator.
They also explained that annual health care costs directly caused by smoking in the state are $10.39 billion. This expense results in a tax burden of $1,410 for each household in New York State every year. There are 28,200 deaths in New York State each year due to smoking, and thousands who are living with illnesses related to tobacco use.
The NYS Tobacco Control Program is made up of a network of statewide contractors who work on Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities, which includes Community Engagement and Reality Check, the Health Systems for a Tobacco-Free New York, the NYS Smokers’ Quitline and Surveillance and Research. Their efforts are leading the way toward a tobacco-free society.