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Advocates, students and educators call for ban on flavored tobacco products in New York

Packs of menthol cigarettes sits on a table. (Photo Illustration by  Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Packs of menthol cigarettes sits on a table. (Photo Illustration by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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Students, educators and parents joined together Monday to call on state lawmakers to end the sale of flavored tobacco in New York and increase the state’s cigarette tax by $1.

Members of the NYS PTA, NYS School Boards Association and New York School-Based Health Alliance support Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposal for legislation to curb youth from using tobacco by banning the sale of flavored tobacco and raising taxes on other tobacco products.

"The New York School-Based Health Alliance, which represents over 250 school-based health centers which care for children in NY's most underserved communities, strongly supports the Governor's proposals to create a tobacco-free generation,” Executive Director of the Alliance Sarah Murphy said. “We cannot allow the tobacco industry to continue to prey on these communities and hook kids as their replacement tobacco users through flavored tobacco products. The communities we serve are predominantly people of color and immigrant populations who are already struggling with significant health disparities including staggering numbers of asthma cases and other chronic diseases that we know are exacerbated by tobacco. This is about prevention and New York must enact these lifesaving policies in the final budget.”

A recent poll out from Siena College showed a significant majority of New Yorkers surveyed were in favor of the proposed ban on menthol-flavored tobacco products, with 57 percent in favor versus 35 percent against.

New Yorkers are also in favor of a $1 tax increase on cigarettes, with only a third of respondents against the measure, according to the poll.

New York State made great strides to prevent youth tobacco use by restricting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in 2020–but the new regulations still allowed other dangerous flavored tobacco products known to increase addiction to continue to be sold.

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Menthol cigarettes, which are much easier to smoke and more addictive than regular tobacco, are still available on shelves and the number one way Big Tobacco hooks young smokers and keeps Black New Yorkers addicted.

According to the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than 2.5 million kids across the country are using tobacco products. Of these youth, 85 percent of high school and 81 percent of middle school students use flavored products with fruit, candy/desserts/other sweets, mint, and menthol reported as the most popular flavors. Flavors are a marketing weapon used by tobacco manufacturers to target youth and young people to a lifetime of addiction.

For generations, Big Tobacco has aggressively marketed flavored tobacco products to underage users and communities of color, creating disproportionately negative health outcomes for Black communities in particular. In New York State, menthol cigarettes are used by over half of all adult smokers, while 86 percent of Black smokers and 72 percent of Hispanic smokers smoke menthols.

The proposals included in the Executive Budget will make tobacco products less appealing and more expensive for youth to prevent another generation falling victim to this deadly addiction.

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According to the CDC, if cigarette smoking continues at the current rate among youth in this country, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 will die early from a smoking-related illness. That’s about 1 of every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger who are alive today.

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