Smoking kills about 28,000 adult New Yorkers every year. About 750,000 adults in NYS live with serious smoking-related illness.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States; nearly all tobacco product use begins during youth and young adulthood 

New York spends $10.4 billion caring for people made sick from smoking.

Annually New York State receives over $2 billion in tobacco revenues. They only spend $39.3 million on tobacco prevention. While the NYS smoking rate has dropped faster than the national average, some population groups are benefiting less from this progress.

Limited funding prevents reaching the vulnerable populations with the highest rates of smoking. Increasingly, the burden of tobacco taxes falls heavily on those with low-income, low education, and those with chronic mental distress.

Accomplishments Across New York State

Smoking rates among adults and youth are at an all-time low in NY. Currently 12.8% of adults (2018) The rate of smoking among young adults (18-24 years of age) has reached a low of 8.6% and 4.8% of high school youth (2018) smoke cigarettes.

In 2003, the expanded NYS Clean Indoor Air Act was enacted. The act is one of the most stringent clean indoor air laws in the nation.

Over 500 municipalities in New York State have passed regulations restricting tobacco use in outdoor recreational areas.

NY implemented 20 local tobacco retail environment policies between 2014 and 2020, and seven new state-level laws in 2020, including four directly impacting the retail environment:

Prohibiting the sale of flavored vape products, tobacco sales in pharmacies, the redemption of coupons and discounts on tobacco products, and exterior displays of tobacco and vapor product ads near schools.The Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Smoke-Free Housing rule of 2018 has been implemented successfully. Among a sample of public housing authority residents in NY, fewer report second-hand smoke incursions after implementation of the law and a greater number report restrictive smoking rules in the home. Compliance could be improved, however, because incursions were still reported.

Prior to implementation of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Smoke-Free Housing rule in July 2018, NYS tobacco control partners had assisted over half of the state’s public housing authorities adopt smoke-free policies voluntarily.  Partners used their years of experience engaging public housing directors, staff and residents to assist the remaining housing authorities adopt the smoke-free rule. 

The impact is reduced exposure to secondhand smoke in the home. Among a sample of public housing authority residents in NY, fewer report secondhand smoke incursions and more report restrictive smoking rules in the home.

Compliance, however, needs to be improved as secondhand smoke incursions continue to be reported.  Additional support and resources are needed to ensure that residents and staff in all public housing buildings can breathe safe, smoke-free air.

Awareness of the NY Medicaid program’s expanded tobacco cessation benefits could be improved; fewer than half of the smokers/recent quitters surveyed reported they are aware Medicaid covers Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) for enrollees and even fewer reported awareness of Medicaid coverage for stop smoking medications and cessation counseling.

NY has capitalized on the opportunity to integrate the NYS Smokers’ Quitline services with broader health systems work to improve tobacco use cessation services. The Quitline’s Quit Coaches are trained to discuss with tobacco users the importance of concurrently working with their own health care professionals on tobacco dependence treatment. The Quit Coaches also strive to ensure tobacco users are aware of cessation-related insurance benefits, including medications, that may be available to them through their health care plans and health care professionals.

Smokers’ awareness of NY’s Medicaid-focused media campaigns increased to 45.4% after it ran periodically for two years. Smoker’s awareness of key themes increased by 

NY Tobacco Control

Tobacco control programs play a crucial role in the prevention of many chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illness. Comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation programs like the one in NYS prevent kids from starting to smoke, helps adult smokers quit, and serve as a counter to the ever-present negative influence of the tobacco industry.

There are still 2 million smokers in NY that need help – we must continue to invest wisely by supporting tobacco control in NYS. With additional resources we could increase community level interventions, and implement strategies. We could also target anti-smoking media messages where the need is greatest. Such as those with low incomes, limited education and mental illness.

The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) is pleased to announce the release of two new tobacco control data reports:

  • BRFSS Brief: Cigarette Smoking, New York State Adults, 2018. This report is based on data from the 2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), an annual statewide telephone survey of adults developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and administered by the NYSDOH. Key findings include:
    • Between 2011 (18.1%) and 2018 (12.8%) the prevalence of adult smoking decreased by 34%.
    • Smoking rates are highest among adults reporting frequent mental distress (27.7%); adults who are unemployed (24.5%); adults enrolled in Medicaid (23.5%); adults who have earned less than a high school education (21.5%); adults with an annual household income of less than $25,000 (20.4%); and, adults living with disability (20.0%).
    • The rate of smoking among young adults (18-24 years of age) has reached a low of 8.6%.
  • StatShot: Prevalence of Menthol Cigarette Use among Adults Smokers by Race/Ethnicity. This report is based on data from the 2018 Adult Tobacco Survey, an annual statewide survey developed and administered in partnership with RTI, International, the Independent Evaluator for the NYS Tobacco Control Program. Key findings include:
    • In NY, menthol cigarettes are used by over half of all adult smokers (52%).
    • Black and Hispanic adults smoke menthols almost exclusively: 86% of Black and 72% of Hispanic smokers use menthol cigarettes, further supporting established evidence of racial and ethnic disparities in menthol cigarette use.
    • 56% of adults statewide, and 68% of African Americans support banning the sale of menthol cigarettes in NY, according to data from the Chronic Disease Public Opinion Poll.

These reports have been approved for public release. Please feel free to use and share these data with partners and colleagues. Additional tobacco control data products can be found on the NYSDOH Public Website:

Tobacco Product Use Among Middle and High School Students — United States, 2020

Find out more ……

Reality Check is a youth led movement in New York State that empowers youth to become leaders in their communities in exposing what they see as the manipulative and deceptive marketing tactics of the tobacco industry. The organization’s members produce change in their communities through grassroots mobilization and education.

New York State Smokers’ Quit Line is free and confidential service. They provide services to New York State residents who want to stop tobacco use. This includes, motivational coaching, free nicotine patches, an online smoke-free community, educational fact sheets, materials and videos. Additional educational tools and cessation resources are available. Mainly to healthcare providers, employers, educators, and others. In addition, this also includes a referral program for tobacco users.

Health Systems for a Tobacco-Free NYS provide New York’s healthcare community with evidence-based education, training, and resources. This helps to treat their tobacco dependent patients and help them quit smoking successfully.