Health Commissioner Unveils New Billboard Campaign - Releases Figures from DOH Tobacco Enforcement Report - Over 27,000 Compliance Checks Conducted
New York City, September 23, 1999 –– State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello M.D., M.P.H. today delivered a strong message in her unveiling of the latest weapon in New York's anti–smoking campaign. Dr. Novello presented seven new anti–smoking signs at a site near the Holland Tunnel in New York City. The signs will be placed on more than 100 billboards across New York State to highlight the adverse effects of cigarette smoking.
"As a former U.S. Surgeon General, I took the lead by ensuring that the message got out that cigarette smoking kills. People who can stop or never start smoking significantly increase their likelihood of living healthier, longer and more productive lives," Dr. Novello said. "Under Governor Pataki's leadership, New York State has done more to prevent teen–smoking than under any other Governor in New York State history."
In addition, the Commissioner provided data from a soon–to–be–released Department report on the State's $2.5 million enforcement partnerships with local governments to stop retailers from selling tobacco products to minors. The result of a Governor Pataki initiative, the report shows a record 27,792 compliance inspections were conducted and more than $1 million in fines were levied against 5,050 retailers for tobacco sales to minors from October 1997 to September 1998.
The billboard campaign announced by the Commissioner today is part of the State's $8.4 million – highest funding in State history – tobacco control campaign which includes a statewide media campaign; partnerships with local governments to ensure retailers are not selling tobacco products to minors; and local youth oriented partnerships. The $8.4 million represents a 400 percent increase over the funding provided under the last year of the previous administration.
"When I became Health Commissioner, Governor Pataki made it clear that he wanted measures taken to strengthen New York's anti–tobacco campaign and initiate programs to effectively prevent teen smoking," Dr. Novello said. "This is my first salvo in our fight to stop teens from smoking. The boards being used in this campaign have proven effective in other states and I am convinced that they will get out the message that New York will be doing more to alert teens and adults about the ravages of smoking cigarettes."
Tobacco Enforcement Report (October 1997 to September 1998)
Dr. Novello provided figures from a soon–to–be–released report on tobacco enforcement efforts. The report shows that more than $1 million was levied against 5,050 retailers for tobacco sales to minors from October 1997 to September 1998, under Governor George E. Pataki's aggressive, hard hitting compliance inspection programs to stamp out smoking among New York's youth.
Dr. Antonia Novello said, "This program is another example of the State's commitment to the people of New York and especially to the teenagers of the State who may be more susceptible to becoming habitual smokers. We will continue to work with local enforcement agencies to stop teens from getting cigarettes, which is an essential component in our campaign to stamp out teen smoking."
A record 27,792 compliance inspections were performed during this period from October 1997 to September 1998. Moreover, 20,942 of the total compliance inspections conducted in the first year were done so with the cooperation of minors attempting to purchase over–the–counter tobacco products. The overall number of inspections has increased exponentially under Governor Pataki's leadership, representing more than a 600 percent increase in the amount of inspections performed prior to the Governor's initiative in 1997.
In both 1998 and 1999, $2 million was allocated as part of the State's youth anti–smoking campaign to assist local enforcement officials in their efforts to ensure retailers are not selling tobacco products to minors. This year, New York State also received an additional $745,807 from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to visit 6,000 tobacco vendors to determine compliance with Federal Youth Access Regulations.
Among other findings in the Department's annual report:
- More than $1 million were levied against retailers for the illegal sale of tobacco products to minors in the first year of the program.
- More than 3,600 retailers and vending machine owners were reported to the State Tax Department for lack of required registration to sell tobacco products. Vendors who fail to obtain a registration face a maximum fine of $1,000.
- More than 150 local enforcement officers were trained by the State Health Department to use new inspection forms and protocols.
- DOH has entered a two–year contract totaling $500,000 with a merchant association representing tobacco retailers to educate retail vendors about the Law.
Currently New York City and 35 counties, local government performs compliance checks. In the remaining counties, State Health Department district office field staff perform the inspections.
Tobacco retailers are required by law to be registered with the State Tax Department. A retailer's failure to register may result in a maximum fine of $1,000. Sales to underage minors can result in a $300 fine for a first violation, up to $1,000 for subsequent violations, and loss of license for three violations in two years, or four violations in a lifetime.
"This program could not have been a success without the cooperation of all parties involved." Dr. Novello said. "This agency worked on the front lines with local enforcement agencies, to make sure that retailers were following New York's law prohibiting cigarette sales to minors. Retailers that are found selling cigarettes illegally to minors will be fined and monitored to ensure that they abide by the law, and understand their moral obligations not to sell cigarettes to our children."