THE BLOG

NY's Clean Indoor Air Act: 10 Years of Smoke-free Air

07/19/2013 03:37 pm ET | Updated Sep 18, 2013

Those of us who dined out in the '80s and '90s can remember being asked whether we wanted a smoking table or non-smoking table, as I do. Thankfully, the generations that follow us have never had to endure a dinner and a night out with friends dampened by clouds of toxic secondhand smoke -- and never will -- thanks to landmark legislation that protects us from such harmful experiences.

On Wednesday, July 24, 2013, New York celebrates the 10th anniversary of the expanded Clean Indoor Air Act, a monumental state law that made our bars, restaurants, bingo halls and bowling alleys smoke-free. Besides the millions of New Yorkers who have enjoyed the benefits of our smoke-free places, we must not forget the health care workers who were forced to endure the inhalation of a pack of secondhand smoke per work shift simply because they worked in locations where smoking was permitted.

In the decade since New York went smoke-free, we have seen smoke-free laws spread across the country and around the world. In the past decade we have seen smoking rates plummet with adult smoking rates down to around 16 percent and youth smoking rates dropping by about 40 percent down to 11 percent.

In addition to a strong smoke-free indoor air law, New York also boasts the highest tobacco tax in the country -- these two elements have earned New York A's in the American Lung Association's annual State of Tobacco Control report.

Despite our success in the last decade, tobacco use is still a major public health issue and there is still much to be done. Twenty-five thousand New Yorkers will die this year due to smoking and another 2,600 in our state will die prematurely from exposure to secondhand smoke. Lung cancer remains the number one cancer killer of both men and women. Smoking-related healthcare costs New York more than $8 billion per year.

What can we do to make even more progress in fighting tobacco and the disease it inflicts on New Yorkers? Our State of Tobacco Control Report 2013 provides us with some insight. New York failed to make the grade on our annual report card when it came to funding its state Bureau of Tobacco Control -- a program that has been proven to help smokers quit and keep kids from ever starting. Governor Cuomo and the legislature must commit additional resources toward tobacco control. In the last five years, New York has cut its tobacco control budget by more than 50 percent. Additionally, New York only spends pennies out of every dollar it takes in from tobacco taxes and revenue to help smokers quit. New York can and must do better.

We also know that Big Tobacco continues to use a wide range of tactics to market their products to recruit a new generation of tobacco users or "replacement smokers" for those who have succumbed to tobacco-caused disease. We must pursue the implementation of policies that protect health, encourage smokers to quit and prevent kids from starting to smoke. Some of the many ways to do that include fighting Big Tobacco at the "point of sale" where they spend millions of dollars marketing their products and offering discounts and other techniques to lure in customers. We must continue to expand smoke-free laws so that New Yorkers are protected from secondhand smoke where they live, work and play.

New York has a long history of vocal advocates and elected officials who have championed strong tobacco control policies. As we celebrate 10 years of the expanded Clean Indoor Air Act, we need a new generation of tobacco control advocates fighting for policies which will save New Yorkers' lives.

As we commemorate these 10 years, let's remember the countless lives we have saved, the lung diseases we have prevented and the New Yorkers who have enjoyed longer, healthier lives because of it. New York State has a history of leading efforts that promote public health and we look forward to working together to ensure that New York's leaders continue to implement policies and dedicate the resources necessary to reduce the toll that tobacco takes on New Yorkers.