Tobacco Use in New York City

Though the dangers and health effects of tobacco consumption are widely known, this does not stop New Yorkers from partaking in the habit. Under the Smoke-Free Act of 2002, Mayor Bloomberg adopted strict smoking laws in New York that banned smoking in public venues such as parks, beaches, and restaurants. The Smoke-Free Act also implemented tax increases and raised the legal age for purchasing cigarettes from 18 to 21. At the time, the city’s adult smoking rate was 21.5% and Bloomberg hoped that these new laws would discourage people from smoking, thus lowering the rate.

Over the course of the next decade, the smoking rate in New York City plummeted to 14% around 2010. [1] Prices of cigarettes steadily rose, reaching upwards of $14 in some areas of the city. Retail stores like CVS even made the move to no longer sell tobacco products in stores nationwide.The campaign seemed successful. However, statistics provethat increasing cigarette prices and implementing more restrictions does not help in the city’s cause to quit smoking. New studies from 2013 show that smoking rates have in fact increased in the past year, despite the staggering prices people are forced to pay. New studies show that within the past year, the number of smokers in the city has grown to roughly 1 million people, around 16.1% of the population [2]. In this study, statistics show that smoking has gone up among all demographics; around 20% of males and 12.5% of women in New York City smoke [1].

Despite New York having the highest excise taxes on cigarettes, this fails to stop people from purchasing them. In fact, studies show that people who are low-income actually smoke and spend more than those who are wealthier. Those who make over $60,000 a year only spend around 2.2% on tobacco products a year, whereas those who make under $30,000 a year spend as much as 25% of their income on tobacco [3].The fact that lower-income citizens are being exposed to more health problems as a result of their smoking habits only widens the gap between the wealthy and poor; they must suffer the heavy financial burden of treating health problems incurred by smoking, including lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema.

In an effort quit smoking and save money, many smokers have opted for electronic cigarettes and vaporizers, which claim to contain nicotine but very little to no additives. These items produce a smoke-like vapor that has no taste or odor, which encourages people to use them just about anywhere. However, smoking laws have recently been extended to include banning e-cigs and vapes in public venues. For this reason, many may feel that their reason for using them is futile. If people who smoke e-cigs are forced to smoke them outdoors, then they might as well light up a real cigarette. [4] However, studies have proven that the secondhand vapor emitted from e-cigs is rather innocuous; so, why ban them, especially if this latest technology saves people money and exposure to long-term health problems?

[1] Gay, Mara. “New York City’s Adult Smoking Rate Climbs.” WSJ. Wall Street Journal, 15 Sept. 2014. Web. 18 Dec. 2014. <http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-york-citys-adult-smoking-rate-climbs-1410812653>.

[2] “Smoking Statistics.” General. NYC Coalition for a Smoke Free City, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 18 Dec. 2014. <http://www.nycsmokefree.org/smoking-statistics#5>.

[3] “Poor Smokers in New York State Spend 25% of Income on Cigarettes, Study Finds.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Sept. 2012. Web. 19 Dec. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/nyregion/poor-smokers-in-new-york-state-spend-25-of-income-on-cigarettes-study-says.html?_r=0>. [4] Hafrey, Jimmy. “Smoking Rates Increase in New York After E-Cigs Are Banned – ChurnMag.” ChurnMag. 16 Sept. 2014. Web. 18 Dec. 2014. <http://www.churnmag.com/news/smoking-rates-increase-new-york-e-cigs-banned/>.

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