For 'Kick Butts Day,' State Health Commissioner Urges Supermarkets to Kick Tobacco

ALBANY, NY (April 2, 2008) - State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today is urging New York State supermarkets to be good neighbors and stop selling tobacco products. In a full-page ad in major upstate newspapers, Commissioner Daines appealed to stores to discontinue the advertising and sale of tobacco products, following the lead of three food market chains that have already done so.

"Grocery stores are very important members of the community and New Yorkers need their leadership on this issue," Commissioner Daines said. "This is the only product being sold by food markets that, when used as intended, will kill their customers and increase the number of those dying from devastating diseases like cancer."

Commissioner Daines noted that some food market chains have in recent months decided to stop selling tobacco products and that others stores should, too. "Stores which adopt a no-tobacco sales policy would be recognized as community and industry leaders," said Commissioner Daines.

The ad was placed today to coincide with the national "Kick Butts Day," in which youth are encouraged to speak up and take action against tobacco use at more than 2,000 events from coast to coast. Teenagers are especially vulnerable to the in-store displays, banner and window signs, and in-store promotional signage of supermarkets and other venues, and New York youth would benefit the most if stores discontinued tobacco sales.

"The science shows that higher advertising levels and prominent cigarette promotions are associated with more youth starting to smoke," Commissioner Daines said. "Reducing the availability and promotion of tobacco products will help people quit, discourage youth from starting and demonstrate that supermarkets really are good neighbors who care about the communities in which they are located."

Studies have shown that reductions in access to tobacco products, promotions, advertising and pricing strategies result in lower smoking rates, especially among youth.

The Commissioner encouraged food stores to take the initiative and reap the advantages of being a community and industry leader rather than an entity forced to comply with laws. There is already a New York State bill pending that would require all pharmacies and stores with pharmacies to stop selling tobacco. Parts of Canada have already passed such a law.

Tobacco causes nearly one out of every three cancer deaths (186,000 people a year) and one out of five total deaths (430,000 people each year), according to the American Cancer Society. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there are currently 389,000 New York youth under age 18 alive today who are projected to die from smoking. In New York State alone 25,500 people die each year from smoking-caused illnesses.

For information about quitting smoking, please call the toll-free NY smokers' quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) or visit the Smokers' quit site at http://www.nysmokefree.com/newweb/default.aspx.