The American Lung Association and five members of Fieldstone Middle Schools Reality Check club traveled to Albany on Tuesday, Feb. 4 to attend the annual Legislative Day at the New York State Capitol building and discussed 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.
Youths from across New York state represented its various comprising counties with Fieldstone Middle School students representing Rockland County at the event. The students, which included Agelina Ardiri, Jasmine Garcia, Mikaela Goldstein, Michael McIntyre and Mckenzie Bertorelli, were accompanied by the schools Student Assistance Counselor Madelyn Nealon, Leilani Lockett of the American Lung Association, Madonna Towns of the American Lung Association and Carissa Jachcinski, the Program Manager for POW’R Against Tobacco a program of the American Lung Association.
Students had the opportunity to meet with various members of the New York State legislature, including Assemblyman Zebrowski and Senator Carlucci who represent various parts of Rockland County. During the meetings the youth stressed that cigarette smoking among high school youth statewide declined significantly between 2000 and 2018, but e-cigarette use by high schoolers continues to rise, now at 27 percent. By 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.
In addition to the meetings, Assemblyman Zebrowski took the time to take the students on to the floor of the chambers and educate the students on the legislative process. The students even had the opportunity to speak to Senator Biaggi and take photos at the backdrop that said, “Big Tobacco Can’t Hide the Facts.”
“Here in New York State, we have made great strides to end teen smoking, but new products threaten to undo this progress,” said Jachcinski. “It is the amazing voices of the youth at John S. Burke High School and across the state that will address the social acceptability of tobacco in our communities. While 2018 was the first year for teen smoking to increase since 2000, I am sure with the dedication and hard work of this group we can create the first tobacco-free generation, address smoking related health disparities and inequities, reduce youth exposure to tobacco marketing, and increase the availability of tobacco-free outdoor spaces.”
The adult smoking rate in NYS is currently 12.8 percent, however, there are certain groups that smoke at double that rate, such as those living with frequent mental distress, adults enrolled in Medicaid and adults who are unemployed. Susan Lennon, Tobacco Program manager for the Center for a Tobacco-Free Hudson Valley, said, “Mental health status shouldn’t determine smoking status, but often it does. The NYS tobacco control program has both local and statewide support programs in place to assist any person who is interested in quitting smoking.”
The Costs of Tobacco Use in New York State
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 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 CDC recommends a $203 million annual investment in New York State’s Tobacco Control Program; the state’s investment is $39 million.
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. For more information, visit TobaccoFreeNYS.org, TobaccoFreeNY.org and NYSmokeFree.Com.