Department of Health releases new data on smoking inequalities in NYC

Although smoking prevalence in NYC has halved, from 22% in 2002 to 11% in 2020, inequalities remain due to tobacco marketing, the concentration of retailers in high-poverty communities, and other forms of structural inequality.

Addressing the root causes of injustice and prioritizing communities experiencing those injustices is critical.

October 17, 2022 – The Department of Health today released a new report (PDF) emphasizing the need to address the root causes of smoking injustice, with recommendations on how to make progress. Although fewer adults in New York smoke cigarettes than in previous decades, some New Yorkers continue to smoke at higher rates, and smoking remains a leading cause of death. Smoking can cause heart disease, lung disease, stroke, diabetes and over 10 types of cancer.

“Smoking kills and its unjust effects are not accidental but intentional,” he said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “The tobacco industry has been targeting marginalized people, mostly black and brown people and those on low incomes, for decades. They have done it at home and abroad. While reaping billions of dollars, New Yorkers have lost loved ones. This data once again highlights the unjust effects of tobacco use and is a call to action to end Big Tobacco’s exploitation of our communities.”

The report includes data on racist environmental and industry factors that can lead to injustice. These include disproportionate industry marketing and access to retailers in communities with higher levels of poverty and fewer protective factors, such as poverty. B. Healthy coping resources or access to treatment support. For example, data on menthol smoking rates is presented, highlighting the harmful effects of the tobacco industry’s aggressive advertising of menthol cigarettes on communities of color. In 2020, 52% of all adults who smoked in NYC usually smoked menthol cigarettes, but 89% of Black and 68% of Latino/a adults who smoked used menthol cigarettes, compared to just 32% of Whites and 25% of Asians /Pacific Adult islanders who smoked.

The report also underscores the importance of recognizing overlapping factors in smoking injustice. While overall smoking prevalence in New York was similar across different racial/ethnicity groups, looking at race, ethnicity, gender, and birthplace together revealed inequalities. In 2019-2020, non-US-born Asian/Pacific Island men smoked more frequently than US-born Asian/Pacific Island men (20% vs. 5%). The data tells a different story when looking at Black and Hispanic men who are more likely to smoke if born in the US (23% and 21%, respectively) than outside the US (5% and 11%, respectively).

The report also examines tobacco treatment uptake and suggests that tailored outreach and treatment support must be a priority. For example, smoking Asian/Pacific Islanders from New York were less likely (9%) to have used nicotine replacement therapy (tobacco treatment drugs used to treat nicotine cravings) than Black (24%), Latino/a (26%), and White (20 %) adults who smoke in 2016.

“We need to make sure all communities get the support they need. Tobacco treatment medication and counseling can double a person’s chances of successfully quitting smoking. So it’s imperative that we work together to raise awareness of all the resources available to New Yorkers, such as numerous quit programs across the city,” he said dr Michelle Morse, the agency’s chief medical officer and deputy commissioner of the Center for Health Equity and Community Wellness.

To support communities most affected by smoking inequalities:

  • Community-based organizations, public health practitioners, and social service providers can refer to the Race to Justice Action Kit for tips on how to communicate effectively and respectfully about health inequalities and implement meaningful community engagement projects.
  • Clinicians should use best practices to address health inequities. For more tips, see the NYS Department of Health’s Health Organization Considerations in Support of Justice.
  • Physicians should screen all patients for tobacco use and offer tobacco treatment, including medication, to all patients who smoke, even if they are not ready to quit.
  • Researchers should apply anti-racism approaches in tobacco research and surveillance, including collecting and reporting disaggregated data when possible.
  • Public health advocates and policymakers should advocate for tailored solutions and policies grounded in equity that challenge industry influences, change unjust conditions and break down barriers to community health.
  • See the report for more recommendations. For more information on tobacco treatment resources, visit the NYC Quits and Coping with Nicotine Withdrawal website. Clinical guidelines, tools and resources are also available for clinicians.



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