Smoking and Poverty

South_Bronx_Cover2Fifty years after the first U.S. Surgeon General report on smoking, patterns of cigarette use have changed. Tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, but smoking is increasingly a burden on the poor and working class.

According to a study recently published by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Americans living in affluent counties smoke less over time than those living in counties with lower income.

In New York City and State, leaders in tobacco control policy have instituted a comprehensive approach to tobacco control and prevention, including strong smoke-free laws, high prices for cigarettes and hard-hitting educational media. While the overall smoking rate has declined in New York State, the rates have not declined for the poor and less educated as significantly as they have among those who are more affluent and educated.

Take the South Bronx—a prime example of this disparity. The Bronx has been rated as one of the nation’s unhealthiest and most poverty stricken counties.   More than a quarter-million people in the South Bronx are living in poverty, making it the poorest Congressional District in the nation. With a smoking rate of 18.2%, the South Bronx has one of the highest smoking rates in New York City, which has a citywide smoking rate of 15.5%.

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Supportive Housing Residences Go Smoke-Free

SHNNY members who worked with us on their efforts to go smoke-free.

Network members who worked with us on their efforts to go smoke-free.

The Coalition is working to help many tenants and building owners adopt voluntary smoke-free housing policies. We are also working with supportive housing providers to help them go smoke-free.

Supportive housing is affordable housing with on-site services for individuals and families facing a variety of challenges, including homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse.  People with mental illness smoke cigarettes at higher rates than those without mental illness and substance abuse. But according to a study, smokers with mental illness are as motivated to quit smoking as the general population.

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NYC Youth ‘Kick Butts’

kick butts dayHundreds of youth in the five boroughs took a stand against tobacco on the 19th annual Kick Butts Day, March 19, 2014. Kick Butts day is a national day of activism that empowers youth to speak out against Big Tobacco.

Our Manhattan team and the YM & YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood opened a kiosk on Nagle Avenue in Washington Heights to provide information on the effects of tobacco marking on youth. We showed our video

Tiffany Rivera of the Manhattan Smoke-Free Partnership with Manhattan youth

Tiffany Rivera of the Manhattan Smoke-Free Partnership with Manhattan youth

“Through Our Eyes: NYC Youth on Tobacco Marketing‬”, and youth tobacco control advocates talked with their peers about how tobacco marketing can cause kids to start and continue to use tobacco products.

Our Brooklyn team along with our partner, the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC)-Brooklyn Branch, launched a new video whose hero, “Smoke-Free Brock Li”, shows how tobacco negatively impacts health. The CPC-Brooklyn Branch and our Brooklyn team developed the concept for the video with input from over 200 students in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades from six public schools.

Bronx youth and the tobacco marketing she sees on her way to school.

Bronx youth and the tobacco marketing she sees on her way to school.

Our Bronx team hit the streets of the Bronx with over 30 youth from Truman High School, SoBRO, the Girl Scouts, and the Bronx Student Advisory Council to survey the rampant tobacco marketing they encounter each day walking in their neighborhoods of Clason Point, Soundview, Baychester, and West Farms. Using the hashtag, #BXKICKBUTTS, youth shared their findings on social media to raise awareness and show their peers how Big Tobacco targets them.

Our Queens team led an event at the Boys Club of NY Abbe Clubhouse in Flushing during which youth from the organization signed an open letter to let the tobacco industry know that they’ve seen enough tobacco marketing in their community. “Smoking kills and we’ve

Our Queens team and the Boys Club of NY Abbe Clubhouse in Flushing

Our Queens team and the Boys Club of NY Abbe Clubhouse in Flushing.

got to protect kids from the cause,” said Gregory Fleury, Teen Director at the Boys Club of NY Abbe Clubhouse in Flushing. He continued, “Kids think smoking is okay since they see tobacco marketing every day in stores that we go to, but we want to change that.”

Staten Island Reality Check at Curtis High School

Staten Island Reality Check at Curtis High School.

The Staten Island Smoke-Free Partnership joined Staten Island Reality Check, Staten Island Heart Association Youth Board, and other community partners at a meeting at Curtis High School during which students urged their peers to stay tobacco-free and become tobacco control advocates. Sonya Reyes, the Student Organization President, welcomed Reality Check to her school and encouraged students to take center stage in the fight against tobacco.

Partners in the NYC LGBT Smoke-Free Initiative on the first LGBT Kick Butts Day in NYC.

Partners in the NYC LGBT Smoke-Free Initiative on the first LGBT Kick Butts Day in NYC.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth from all five boroughs joined fifteen LGBT health and community-based organizations at The LGBT Community Center (The Center) for the first LGBT Kick Butts Day in New York City. We marked the occasion by publicly launching the NYC LGBT Smoke-Free Initiative.

City Council Member Rosie Mendez (D-District 2) said, “I support the NYC LGBT Smoke-Free Initiative and its efforts to reduce the smoking rates among the LGBT

City Council Member Rosie Mendez speaking to LGBT youth.

City Council Member Rosie Mendez speaking to LGBT youth.

community while simultaneously decreasing the risk of heart disease. Furthermore, I strongly support any effort that would curb the smoking rate for LGBT youths which studies have proven, have a higher percentage of smokers due to additional stressors in their lives.”

We applaud the next generation of youth advocates who took a stand against Big Tobacco on Kick Butts Day and encourage them to continue fighting for their healthy futures.


Big Tobacco’s Mad Men Are at It Again

Smoking-Don-Draper-Jon-Hamm(1)Whenever you’re marketing a product about which the general public hears negative things, Don Draper in AMC’s Mad Men would suggest, “Change the conversation.”

Isn’t that what Big Tobacco is doing with electronic cigarettes?

In an effort to avoid the stigma associated with cigarettes, devices which are essentially e-cigarettes are being marketed cleverly as “hookah pens”, “e-hookahs” or “vape pipes”.  The marketing would have you believe you’re not smoking and exposing those around you to toxic secondhand smoke; you’re “vaping”, and the vapor you exhale is harmless. Yet, you’re likely being exposed to nicotine, which is highly addictive, and there is no conclusion yet potential risks associated with exposure to exhaled vapor.

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Tobacco Control Programs are a Wise Investment

1920543_747615641917263_1080302622_nOn February 12, the Coalition joined tobacco control leaders from around New York State (NYS) in the State capital, Albany, to educate legislators on the critical public health need to have well funded tobacco control and prevention programs.

Tobacco use continues to inflict a terrible toll on NYC residents, especially many at-risk populations.  The working poor and vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected by tobacco use.  Tobacco control programs help those who need it most.

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Tobacco-Free Pharmacies Make Good Business Sense

NYC Coalition_TaxiTops 54x16We applaud CVS Caremark’s bold decision to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products. By making its customers’ health a top priority and refusing to sell these deadly products, CVS can help reduce tobacco use and save lives.

Pharmacies now provide an increasing array of health care, including general check-ups and management of chronic conditions.  With this focus on wellness, why should pharmacies sell the only consumer product that when used as intended will kill at least half of its long-term users.

In Boston and San Francisco, pharmacies are already prohibited from selling tobacco products.  With more than 700 pharmacies in New York City selling tobacco products, CVS now stands apart by placing people’s health over tobacco profits.

CVS may lose $2 billion in sales in the first year, but that’s a very small portion of their roughly $123 billion annual revenue.  Pharmacy retailers earn the lion’s share of their profits from prescription and non-prescription drugs.  They stand to increase those profits by strategically strengthening their brand as a promoter of health and health care.

We encourage all pharmacies to follow CVS Caremark’s lead and join the fight against the tobacco epidemic.


The Case for Smoke-Free Housing

This new video features some of our community partners, Asian Americans for Equality, the American Lung Association of the Northeast, the YM & YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood and SoBRO (South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation).

They make the case for smoke-free housing  and explain why smoke-free housing is the healthier and more economic choice when deciding where to live in New York City.