State Health Department's Youth Access Tobacco Enforcement Program Announces Sales of Tobacco to Teens Reaches 14 Year Low

ALBANY, N.Y. (February 06, 2014) – The New York State Department of Health (DOH) today announced the results of a report highlighting the accomplishments of the Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act (ATUPA), which shows teen smoking rates have dramatically decreased due to efforts which make it difficult for teens to buy cigarettes.

ATUPA requires retailers to obtain positive proof that the person buying cigarettes is at least 18 years of age. Under the program, smoking among New York high school students has decreased 53 percent, from a high of 27.1 percent in 2000 to just 11.9 percent in 2012. Since 1997, more than $27.6 million in fines have been levied against 38,018 retailers for selling tobacco to minors.

"Due in part to the rigorous enforcement of the Public Health Law, our young people have less access to tobacco products," said State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H. "This is critical because we know most smokers begin before they are eighteen, and half start smoking before they are fifteen."

The ATUPA enforcement program is part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's comprehensive anti-smoking and tobacco control initiative, The New York Tobacco Control Program, which includes:

  • Statewide and community action to change the community environment to support a tobacco-free norm.
  • Health communication to increase awareness of the dangers of tobacco use and secondhand smoke; motivate tobacco users to stop; expose tobacco industry propaganda and deglamorize tobacco use and educate community members and decision-makers about tobacco control.
  • Cessation interventions to establish and maintain community, governmental and health care delivery systems that are evidence-based and aimed to help tobacco users quit successfully.

Many people who start smoking in their youth find it nearly impossible to quit during their lifetimes. It is projected that 389,000 young people 17 or younger will eventually die from smoking related illness.

Tobacco addiction is the leading preventable cause of morbidity and mortality in New York State and in the United States. Cigarette use, alone, results in an estimated 25,000 deaths each year in New York State. There are estimated to be 570,000 New Yorkers afflicted with serious disease directly attributable to smoking. The list of illnesses caused by tobacco use is long and contains many of the most common causes of death. These include many forms of cancer, including lung and oral cancers; heart disease; stroke; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other lung diseases.

The economic costs of tobacco use in New York State are staggering. Smoking-attributable health care costs are $8.2 billion annually, including $3.3 billion in annual Medicaid expenditures. In addition, smoking-related illnesses result in $6 billion in lost productivity. Reducing tobacco use has the potential to save New York State taxpayers billions of dollars every year.

Free help and information in English and Spanish is available through the Smokers' Quitline 1-866-NY QUITS (1-866-697-8487) or at

A copy of the Youth Access Tobacco Enforcement Annual Report is available on the Department's web site at