By Carissa H. Mazzeo
Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo released a statement about the record-low smoking rates in New York state. Currently, New York state has an adult smoking rate of 14.2 percent, which is below the national average of 15.5 percent.
However, on Staten Island, our smoking rate is 15.9 percent, higher than both the state and national averages. In some areas on Staten Island, this rate is even higher, particularly in communities with low income, low education and poor mental health.
Despite the teen rate following the adult smoker trend and decreasing to 4.3 percent (2016), the youth usage of e-cigarettes is concerning. Nearly 1 in every 5 teenagers uses e-cigarette products in New York state, which deliver nicotine and have a correlation that relates to future usage of traditional cigarettes.
While great strides have been made here in New York state, the fight is not over. New York became the first state to include e-cigarettes in the Clean Indoor Air Act (2017). New York has also maintained one of the highest tobacco taxes in the nation and expanded Medicaid to include all cessation medications. Yet, smoking still costs New York state $10.39 billion dollars in annual health care costs. Smoking is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States. Each year, smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS/HIV, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined. The Tobacco Control Program in New York state not only saves lives, but it also saves money.
We must continue to decrease youth exposure to tobacco marketing and e-cigarettes, increase tobacco-free outdoor environments, eliminate smoking in multi-unit dwellings, ensure that all patients are screened and treated for tobacco use and dependency, and improve access to cessation services, especially among those disproportionately impacted by tobacco use.
(The writer is program assistant for Tobacco-Free Staten Island.)