One Year after State Cigarette Tax Increase, Smoking at Lowest Rate Ever Recorded

Adult Smoking Rate Below National Level

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 4, 2009 – One year after New York State substantially increased the state excise tax on cigarettes, adult smoking in the state is at the lowest rate ever recorded, the State Health Department announced today.

A recent state health survey found that 16.7 percent of adult New Yorkers were smokers in 2008, a 12 percent decrease, or nearly 310,000 fewer adult smokers from 2007.

On June 3, 2008, the state cigarette excise tax increased by $1.25 to a total $2.75 per pack of cigarettes, making it the highest state cigarette tax in the nation at the time.

Research shows that cigarette taxes are the most effective way to reduce smoking because higher prices drive people to quit smoking and prevent young people from starting smoking. The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids estimated that New York's $1.25 cigarette tax increase would prevent more than 243,000 New York children alive today from smoking and motivate 140,000 more New York smokers to quit for good.

"For the first time, New York's adult smoking rate has dropped below 17 percent, which is well below the national average," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "The data reported today show that New York's tobacco control efforts are having an impact and that keeping the price of cigarettes high is a proven intervention that has helped 310,000 New Yorkers become ex-smokers, who can now lead healthier, longer lives."

The New York State Tobacco Control Program promotes policies that support indoor and outdoor smoke-free areas as well as high tobacco product prices to prevent youth from starting and to encourage adults to quit. The program increases access to effective cessation services, including support for the New York State Smokers' Quitline -- 1-866-NY-QUITS -- and supports media campaigns designed to increase public awareness of the dangers of tobacco use and motivate smokers to quit for good.

Last year's state cigarette tax increase, coupled with the 61-cent federal increase that took effect this April, have resulted in a continued peak level of calls to the toll-free New York State Smokers' Quitline. Since June 3, 2008, when the state tax increase took effect, the Quitline has received over 220,000 calls and provided free nicotine replacement medications to over 140,000 smokers trying to break their addiction to tobacco.

Additionally, during the same period the program's hard-hitting, emotionally-evocative media campaigns depicting the devastating health effects from smoking have motivated over 220,000 smokers to contact the Quitline to receive free coaching and nicotine replacement medications. Ads promoting the Quitline encourage thousands more New York smokers to try to quit on their own.

More information about quitting smoking is available by calling the toll-free New York State Smokers' Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) and on the Quitline Web site at www.nysmokefree.com.