Letter to NYC Council

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Honorable Corey Johnson, Chair, Health Committee, New York City Council

City Hall, New York, NY 10007

April 25, 2017

Dear Mr. Johnson:

I am writing to support the proposed tobacco legislation that will be heard by the Health Committee on April 27. New York City has made extraordinary efforts to combat the death and disease caused by tobacco. Tobacco products and non-tobacco shisha are dangerous. Their use is a major public health concern that we cannot overlook. These bills will help take the next step towards ending the tobacco epidemic for good.

The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) [1] is the world’s first public health treaty. The treaty and its guidelines provide international best practices for tobacco control. While the U.S. has signed the treaty, it is not yet a Party. However, 179 countries and the European Union representing nearly 90% of the world’s population are Parties to the FCTC [2]; a clear indication of the near global acceptance of these strategies. These bills incorporate several of these best practices. I mention just a few of the bills below, but Action on Smoking and Health finds all of the bills in this package worthwhile, and I believe that they will have a significant, positive impact on the health of New Yorkers.

Proposal Int 1544-2017- increased prices and tax

This bill raises the minimum price for tobacco products and imposes a new 10% local tax on other tobacco products. The international community has recognized price and tax increases as an effective way to reduce smoking rates, and therefore included it in Article 6 of the FCTC [3]. Domestically, the U.S. Surgeon General has called raising prices on cigarettes “one of the most effective tobacco control interventions.” [4] In high-income countries, like the United States, a 10% increase in tobacco prices will reduce consumption by about 4% for adults. [5] Tobacco taxes are particularly effective in preventing or reducing tobacco use among young people. A 10% price increase decreases youth smoking by about 7%. [6]

Proposal Int 1131-2016- pharmacies

This bill prohibits pharmacies from selling tobacco products. Tobacco products are the number one cause of preventable death and disease [7], and selling them is antithetical to pharmacies’ goals of improving people’s health. Several cities, including San Francisco and Boston [8], have already taken this step to protect the health of their citizens, and New York should as well.

Int 1585-2017- disclosure of smoking policies

This bill requires owners of residential buildings to create a policy on smoking and disclose it to both current and prospective residents. Although this bill does not require a building to adopt a no smoking policy, it allows prospective tenants to make a fully informed decision about whether or not they want to live in a building. In 2011-2012, more than 1 in 3 (36.8%) nonsmokers who lived in rental housing were exposed to secondhand smoke. [9] This is no small problem; since 1964, approximately 2,500,000 nonsmokers have died from health problems caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. [10]

This bill allows potential tenants to decide whether or not living in a building that allows smoking is an acceptable level of risk to their health and that of their children. The disclosure that this bill requires is supported by Article 8 of the FCTC which calls for universal protection from exposure to tobacco smoke [11], and also Article 12 [12], which encourages public education and awareness.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. [13] Every year, over 480,000 people in the United States [14] and over 28,000 New Yorkers [15] die from tobacco related diseases. New York City has taken a progressive role as a leader in the area of tobacco control. This legislation can continue that tradition and save many people from tobacco related death and disease. I urge the committee to pass these important policies.

Best Regards,

Laurent Huber

Executive Director, Action on Smoking & Health

Ambassador, Framework Convention Alliance on Tobacco Control

 

[1] World Health Organization, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/42811/1/9241591013.pdf?ua=1.

[2] WHO FCTC, Parties to the Framewok Convention on Tobacco Control, http://www.who.int/fctc/signatories_parties/en/.

[3] WHO FCTC, Article 6. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/42811/1/9241591013.pdf?ua=1.

[4] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General, Atlanta, GA: HHS, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014. http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/reports/50-years-ofprogress/index.html

[5] World Health Organization, Raise Taxes on Tobacco, http://www.who.int/tobacco/mpower/publications/en_tfi_mpower_brochure_r.pdf.

[6] Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, RAISING CIGARETTE TAXES REDUCES SMOKING, ESPECIALLY AMONG KIDS,    https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0146.pdf.

[7] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Smoking and Tobacco Use. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/.

[8] Americans for Non-Smokers Rights, Tobacco Free Pharmacies, http://no-smoke.org/learnmore.php?id=615.

[9] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Secondhand Smoke Facts. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/secondhand_smoke/general_facts/.

[10] Id.

[11] WHO FCTC, Article 8. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/42811/1/9241591013.pdf?ua=1.

[12] WHO FCTC, Article 12. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/42811/1/9241591013.pdf?ua=1.

[13] Supra note 7.

[14]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Tobacco Related Mortality.   https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/tobacco_related_mortality.

[15] Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, The Toll of Tobacco in New York. https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/facts_issues/toll_us/new_york.