New York's Smoking Rates Decline Faster than US Rates According to Independent Evaluation

Study Notes High Awareness of Media Campaigns, Calls for Cigarette Tax Increase

Albany, NY (August 31, 2007) - The New York State Health Department today announced the release of the fourth independent evaluation of New York's Tobacco Control Program, which noted that the prevalence of youth and adult smoking in 2006 declined faster in New York than in the United States as a whole.

"This independent evaluation report recognizes the outstanding work New York State has done in making people aware of the dangers of tobacco use and bringing down use rates among both youth and adults," said New York State Commissioner of Health Richard F. Daines, M.D. "The report also points out ways we can improve and have an even bigger impact in the future."

Ursula E. Bauer, Ph.D., director of the state's tobacco control program, said: "Every reduction in tobacco use saves lives and saves money. We can't improve the health of New Yorkers or contain health care costs without addressing tobacco use in a major way. This report lays out the essential ingredients of an effective program to do both."

The Fourth Annual Independent Evaluation of New York's Tobacco Control Program prepared by the Public Health Policy Research Program at RTI International of North Carolina reported that from 2000 through 2006, smoking prevalence among adult New Yorkers declined by 16 percent and smoking among high school students declined by 40 percent. During the same period, nationwide smoking rates declined by 11 percent for adults and by 18 percent for high school students. The number of smokers in New York has declined by more than 600,000 during the 7-year-period.

During 2006 under the previous administration, the independent evaluator noted that progress in conducting counter-marketing through the use of strong, high-quality media messages was "slowed once again by unnecessary bureaucratic and political delays despite the program's efforts to plan and implement measures in a timely manner."

"Governor Spitzer has expressed his full support for making smoking prevention a banner health priority in New York State," said Commissioner Daines. "We are working closely with the program director to break down barriers and remove roadblocks that impeded progress in the past and to go forward with the strongest campaign possible to reduce tobacco use and the terrible impact it has on health."

RTI International made a number of recommendations it said should be implemented in order for the State to achieve its goal of reducing the number of smokers by one million by 2010. The recommendations include:

  • Maintaining or increasing the $85.5 million State annual funding level;
  • Increasing the price of cigarettes by raising the cigarette excise tax and reducing tax evasion through Indian reservation sales to non-Indians. Currently, there is a $1.50 tax per pack of cigarettes in New York State. New York City has an additional $1.50 tax per pack. The State's cigarette tax ranks 14th in the nation.
  • Running aggressive media and counter-marketing campaigns that reach at least 60 percent of the target population and drive at least 230,000 calls per year to the New York State Smokers' Quitline (1-866 NY QUITS or 1-866-697-8487). Calls to the Quitline, administered by the Roswell Park Cancer Institute under a contract with the State Health Department, increased from 6,490 in 2000 to 178,900 in 2006.

RTI was selected through a competitive procurement to conduct the statutorily mandated independent evaluation of the State's tobacco prevention and control efforts from 2003 through 2007.

The report is available on the Department's Web site at: www.health.ny.gov/prevention/tobacco_control/