Legislation Will Make it Harder for Big Tobacco to Market and Sell Tobacco to Kids

ALBANY, NY (07/30/2008)(readMedia)-- The American Lung Association of New York today applauded the courage and leadership of New York's Congressional Delegation for voting overwhelmingly in favor of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (H.R. 1108). Today's historic vote -- the first time in history that the House of Representatives has voted on this legislation -- is an important step for public health, and it is imperative that the Senate act quickly to pass this crucial measure.

"Children are particularly vulnerable to the insidious marketing tactics of Big Tobacco," said Michael Seilback, Vice President, Public Policy & Communications. "Over 90 percent of smokers start the deadly addiction before the age of 18, so this legislation will mean fewer teen smokers, which translates into fewer adults caught in nicotine's grasp."

Tobacco companies spend over $800 million in New York State each year to advertise and market their products. Worse yet, the tobacco industry has come forward with a new wave of products, such as candy-flavored cigarettes, that appear to continue targeting children and teens.

This vital public health legislation will do a number of things automatically upon passage. Of particular consequence will be implementing extensive marketing restrictions on Big Tobacco, prohibiting the use of terms such as "light" and "low," and banning the sale of candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes. Further, this legislation will grant the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products and to restrict their marketing.

The only Representative from New York to vote against the bill was Congressman Thomas Reynolds (NY-26). Both Senator Schumer and Senator Clinton are sponsors in the Senate (S. 625).

This promising news comes on the heels of recent data which shows a decline in smoking rates among high school students in New York State. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking rates among high school students declined statewide from 16.2 percent in 2005, down to 13.8 percent in 2007. The rate of high school smoking in NYC declined from 11.2 percent in 2005 to 8.5 percent in 2007.

Additionally, smoking will be more difficult on college campuses in New York this fall, as Governor Paterson signed legislation this month which prohibits smoking in all dormitories on State University campuses, and in all dormitories and other group residential facilities of private colleges and universities in New York.

Also, on June 3, 2008, New York State became the national public health leader in tobacco taxation when it raised the tobacco excise tax to $2.75 - the highest in the nation. This increase will eventually save the lives of over 77,000 youth who will be prevented from becoming smokers, and save more then 37,000 adult New Yorkers from a tobacco-caused death by helping them quit.

In 2007, the American Lung Association's State of Tobacco Control Report Card gave New York only a "C" for the tax on cigarettes in January, when the excise tax on cigarettes in New York was $1.50. At that time, 15 states placed ahead of New York. Now, with the latest raise, the current tax of $2.75 is the highest of any state in the nation and will likely give New York an "A" for tobacco tax in next year's report.

For more information, including New York's State of Tobacco Control Report Card, visit http://www.alany.org/.