State Health Commissioner Addresses Anti-Smoking Advocates as June 3 Implementation of Tobacco Tax Increase Nears

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 6, 2008) - State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., will outline his strategy to increase the availability of medicinal nicotine products while limiting the availability of the most toxic forms of nicotine delivery – tobacco use – in a speech today at 12:45 p.m. at the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center.

Commissioner Daines is the keynote speaker on the first of a three-day, Statewide Tobacco Control conference sponsored by the state Health Department's Tobacco Control Program. About 300 anti-smoking advocates will attend the conference, called "Shaping a Tobacco-Free Future: Strategies for 2010 and Beyond."

The June 3 implementation of a $1.25 increase in the state tobacco tax fits into the overall strategy.

"The clock is ticking, and in less than a month the state tax on cigarettes will increase to $2.75, making New York's tobacco tax the largest of any state," said Dr. Daines. "Raising the price of cigarettes is one of the most effective ways to get smokers to quit and to prevent youth from starting. We expect that an unprecedented number of New York smokers will try to quit smoking in anticipation of New York's cigarette tax on June 3, and our Quitline is available online and on the phone to help."

By raising the price, the state is putting cigarettes out of the economic reach of most children and motivating current smokers to experiment with safe forms of nicotine, such as lozenges, patches or gum, as they try to quit smoking.

Other components of the strategy include:

  • Petitioning the federal Food and Drug Administration to increase availability of safe nicotine by allowing over-the-counter nicotine products to be sold everywhere cigarettes are sold, and in "daily" units – just as most cigarettes are sold by the pack. Support for the New York petition is building as seen on the FDA website www.regulations.gov, with letters of support from the American Medical Association, the Association for the Treatment of Tobacco Use and Dependence, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York Chapter of the American College of Physicians, New York State Public Health Association, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and health departments in Herkimer and Dutchess counties.
  • An increase in the number of retailers who voluntarily stop carrying tobacco products, following the examples of Wegmans and other grocery store chains which have elected to stop selling tobacco.
  • A continuing campaign to urge owners of major movie studios to stop featuring smoking in movies targeted to children and to give an 'R' rating to movies featuring tobacco use unless it reflects a historical character who smoked.
  • Access to tobacco dependence treatment in the health care setting.
  • And, ultimately, taking nicotine out of cigarettes so that smokers will have a true choice whether to smoke, allowing continued access to safe nicotine by purchasing nicotine patches, gum and lozenges.

"We have a unique window of opportunity in the weeks before and after the cigarette cost increase to help smokers quit," said Ursula Bauer, Ph.D., state Tobacco Control Program Director. "We will come closer to our goal of 1 million fewer smokers by the year 2010 by implementing a statewide push to motivate smokers to quit, with activities and events that build momentum toward June 3 and familiarize smokers with safe nicotine products."

The state Tobacco Control Program is working closely with the New York State Smokers' Quitline to help prepare for the expected increase in calls from smokers before June 3. The Quitline provides free coaching and quit plans, free nicotine patches, gum and lozenges, free tips and information, and free online help. The Quitline phone number is 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487). More information about the Quitline can be found at www.nysmokefree.com.

The Quitline will also provide free nicotine replacement therapy aids to eligible smokers working with local health departments, cessation centers, and facilities funded and licensed by the State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services.

Additionally, the state's 19 tobacco control cessation centers will build on the Department's Don't Be Silent media campaign launched in February that encourages physicians to urge their patients who smoke to quit. The campaign uses graphic images of health care professionals with their mouths stitched or taped shut to dramatize how doctors can help their patients quit by talking about smoking (see the Feb. 1 press release).

Other speakers at the conference will address community change to support tobacco-free settings, promoting smokefree colleges, supporting youth anti-tobacco activities, and expanding the use of evidence-based strategies in health education efforts. Other speakers include Danny McGoldrick of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Stanton Glantz, Ph.D., of the University of California at San Francisco, and Gary Giovino, Ph.D., of the State University of New York at Buffalo.