New York

New York Reduces Tobacco Use Among Youth and Underserved Populations

New York State’s Tobacco Control Program, run by the State’s Bureau of Tobacco Control, is known for its effective and evidence-based work with local communities across the state. The Tobacco Control Program and these communities collaborate to prevent illness, disability, and death caused by tobacco. Together, they have greatly reduced the percentage of New York adults who smoke and have brought the percentage of New York youth who smoke to record lows.1,2

Running on a bridge in New York
Despite this progress, 28,200 New York State residents die from tobacco-related illnesses each year and more than 20% of New York high school students currently use e-cigarettes.2,3 Community leaders in New York have taken significant steps to reduce tobacco use, but there is a risk that local tobacco control efforts will be sidelined because of competing public health priorities. The Tobacco Control Program and its local partners use state, local, and national data to keep their communities interested in reducing tobacco-related disease, disparities, and death.

New York Uses Data to Inform Local Action

The New York Tobacco Control Program and its local partners understand the importance of using data to motivate community partners and guide decision-making. The program has sophisticated data collection and analysis capabilities.

Tobacco Control Program staff:

  • Gather local data on beliefs and attitudes about tobacco use and tobacco marketing.
  • Provide up-to-date, relevant, local data when meeting with community members, youth organizations, and policy makers to guide decision-making.
  • Share state-level data, national data, and scientific information about tobacco and health from the New York State Adult Tobacco Survey and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Reducing the Toll of Tobacco in New York

Higher tobacco retail density is associated with greater tobacco use among adolescents and decreased quit attempts for adult cigarette smokers who want to quit. It also contributes to racial and socioeconomic disparities in tobacco use. Reducing the number of retailers that sell tobacco products in an area may prevent youth initiation and increase quit attempts.4 In addition, a large number of pharmacies sell tobacco products, and often more cheaply than other stores.5 Increasing the price of tobacco products is the single most effective way to reduce tobacco use.6

Relying on local, state, and national data provided by the Tobacco Control Program, community leaders in local areas across New York State have taken steps to reduce the toll of tobacco on young people and underserved populations.

For example, in 2016 and 2017:

  • Niskayuna, the Village of Tannersville, and Sullivan County prohibited tobacco retailers from being located near schools.
  • New York City raised the minimum prices of all tobacco products and established a new tax of 10% for non-cigarette tobacco products. The minimum price for a pack of cigarettes, including tax, is $13 per pack—the highest pack price in the United States. New York City also adopted simultaneous restrictions on the type and number of retailers who can sell tobacco in New York City, resulting in a 7% decrease in the number of tobacco retailers and 510 pharmacies no longer selling tobacco products in the city.7
  • Rockland County prohibited tobacco sales in pharmacies, reducing the number of retailers selling tobacco in the county by 10%.8

Ed Day, the Rockland County Executive, relied upon national and local data to better understand issues related to the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies. Mr. Day said the following:

There exists conclusive evidence that tobacco smoke causes cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and negative birth outcomes among other serious and chronic diseases . . . . [E]ach year over 13,000 New Yorkers are diagnosed with lung cancer with about 9,000 people dying of this disease. Smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer and [secondhand smoke] also increases the risk for lung cancer. . . . Access to tobacco products remains a major problem. Our pharmacies should be sites of health and treatment modalities, not places where these addictive tobacco products are readily available and sold.

CDC’s scientific information, data resources, and funding for state tobacco control and evaluation staff have been a key piece of New York’s tobacco control success. These tools have helped New Yorkers understand the issues and educate their communities, resulting in measures to prevent the harms caused by tobacco use.


  1. New York State Department of Health. BRFSS Brief, Number 1802 pdf icon[PDF–154 KB]external icon. 2018.
  2. New York State Department of Health. Youth Cigarette Use at All‐Time Low, ENDS Use Doubles pdf icon[PDF–103 KB]external icon. StatShot. 2017;10(1).
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Extinguishing the Tobacco Epidemic in New York. Accessed December 4, 2018.
  4. Center for Public Health Systems Science. Point-of-Sale Report to the Nation: Realizing the Power of States and Communities to Change the Tobacco Retail and Policy Landscape. St. Louis, MO: Center for Public Health Systems Science at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and the National Cancer Institute, State and Community Tobacco Control Research Initiative. 2016.
  5. Henriksen L, Schleicher NC, Barker DC, Liu Y, Chaloupka FJ. Prices for tobacco and nontobacco products in pharmacies versus other stores: results from retail marketing surveillance in California and in the United States. Am J Public Health. 2016;106(10):1858-1864.
  6. US Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: US Dept of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2014. Printed with corrections, January 2014
  7. Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. NYC’s tobacco-free pharmacy law substantially reduces retailer density, yet impact inequalexternal icon. Accessed December 4, 2018.
  8. The Journal News. Bill passed to ban tobacco sales at Rockland pharmaciesexternal icon. Accessed December 4, 2018.