Health Groups Praise Mayor Bloomberg for Signing Ban on Flavored Tobacco

NEW YORK, NY (10/28/2009)(readMedia)-- A coalition of health care groups including the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association in New York and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids today praised Mayor Michael Bloomberg for signing into law one of the most stringent bills in the nation to protect kids from being lured into a lifetime of smoking tobacco. The bill, Intro 433A, which bars the sale of all flavored tobacco products in New York, passed the City Council earlier this month. The new law takes the fight for a smoke-free city beyond the recent Food and Drug Administration action to ban cigarettes with some flavor additives.

"The Mayor's approval of Intro 433 is the pinnacle of more than three years of effort by the American Heart Association to remove these particularly dangerous flavored tobacco products from store shelves in New York City," stated Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, volunteer for the American Heart Association / American Stroke Association and Director, Women and Heart Disease, Heart Vascular Institute, Lenox Hill Hospital. "These products, flavored like popular candy, fruit or alcoholic drinks provide an alluring marketing mechanism for Big Tobacco and help to mask the stringency of tobacco smoke. By removing these items from our markets, we remove the temptation to smoke by our young people and hopefully will dramatically lessen the number of addicted smokers who possess a much greater risk of dying from heart disease or stroke."

The health groups stressed that allowing the sale and promotion of flavored-tobacco products provides tobacco companies with the convenient entry they need to attract children to their deadly products. The coalition expressed hope that today's new law will help prevent another generation of children from becoming lifelong smokers a fate that brings with it ailing health, a poor quality of life and often leads to premature death.

"Flavored tobacco is the latest scheme by Big Tobacco to lure our kids into a lifetime of tobacco addiction," said Michael Seilback, Vice President of Public Policy and Communications at the American Lung Association in New York. "The federal government recognized this and enacted legislation to get flavored cigarettes off our shelves. This law will do even more to protect our kids by banning the sale of all flavored tobacco products sold in the City, including flavored cigars, cigarillos and chewing tobacco. We are grateful to Councilman Joel Rivera, Speaker Quinn and all the members of the City Council who voted in favor of the bill's passage. Because of their efforts, we are here today applauding the Mayor for signing this historic bill into law."

Earlier this year, the FDA won the right to regulate tobacco products after a decades-long fight by pro-health activists against Big Tobacco. The first major FDA action, announced last month, banned the sale of cigarettes with fruit, candy or clove flavors because they lure adolescents into smoking.

The bill signed by Mayor Bloomberg goes beyond the FDA ban on candy-flavored cigarettes and includes all tobacco products in an attempt to close off Big Tobacco's ability to find and exploit loopholes through adding flavoring agents to products such as small cigars and chewing tobacco. The measure is not only good public health policy, it is popular 77 percent of respondents, in a recent poll of 1,000 New Yorkers conducted for the Coalition for a Smoke-Free City, supported a ban when asked if the flavored products "attractive to youth" should be banned.

Michele Bonan, Regional Director of Advocacy for the American Cancer Society, called flavored tobacco products "Big Tobacco's version of training wheels - made and marketed to attract new young smokers. The allure of sweet flavors and slick marketing isn't fooling anyone. From the beginning, flavored tobacco products were designed for one purpose, to make it easier for kids to get hooked into a life-long smoking addiction. We applaud Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council for their leadership in taking these products off the shelves for good with one of the strongest and first-of-its-kind measures aimed at protecting kids against the deadly effects of tobacco."

While today's signing of the flavor ban continues New York City's leadership role nationally in combating smoking, there are still 20,000 high school students who smoke. The health groups stressed that today's action by the Mayor is critical to winning the war against teen smoking and to improving public health. Ninety percent of adult smokers began smoking by the time they were 18, and thousands more begin smoking each year. Shifting from cigarettes to cigars or chewing tobacco, so-called smokeless tobacco, offers no advantage since one cigar can have as much tobacco as five cigarettes.

"New York City's ban on flavored tobacco products is a critical step to end one of the tobacco industry's most insidious tactics to target and addict children," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "We applaud Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council for enacting this new law, which continues New York City's national leadership in the fight against tobacco - the number one preventable cause of death."

Intro 433A was signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg on October 28. The law takes effect in 120 days. It will empower the City Departments of Consumer Affairs and Health and Mental Hygiene to police the sale of these products. Penalties assessed will range from fines for a first offense all the way up to suspension of a business' license to sell tobacco products for multiple violations.