Those health warnings on the side of a package or carton of cigarettes are well-established and have become more severe and graphic over the years. That warning from the Surgeon General was the result of a landmark 1964 report by the Surgeon General, establishing a link between cigarettes and heart disease and cancer. Fifty years later, the acting Surgeon General, Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak, says progress has been made, but smoking remains a serious health problem.
Albany is well known for its overblown promises and rhetorical hype. Often newly passed laws are promoted as “historic” and criticisms of health reforms paint a picture of the end of civilization as we know it.
This week marks the 10th anniversary of New York State’s Clean Indoor Air Act, which prohibits smoking in all indoor workplaces, including restaurants and bars. While smoking cessation advocates are celebrating the anniversary, they also say there is more to be done to protect public health.
Higher prices have been shown to encourage smokers to quit or reduce their consumption of cigarettes. Cigarette tax evasion makes cigarettes cheaper and reduces the public health benefits of New York’s excise tax, as well as depriving the state of much-needed revenue. Were the tax collected on all cigarettes smoked in New York, tens of thousands of adults would quit rather than pay higher prices, and state revenues would dramatically increase.
Tobacco companies are an extreme example of how greed trumps morality in America’s marketplace. Every year roughly 500,000 smokers die from tobacco use and the industry knows it must at least replace those lost customers – plus the ones who successfully quit the addiction.