ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Capital District Tobacco-Free Communities (CDTFC) and youth-led Reality Check of New York, focus facts on the alarming average age of new smokers in New York: 13-years-old. The CDTFC says billions of dollars spent each year by tobacco industries make affordable, accessible products that appeal to kids, which peaked in 2018, at 27.4% of high school e-cigarette use in the state.

“Think of flavored tobacco products as the industry’s starter kit for kids,” said Dr. Gus Birkhead, Policy and Advocacy Chair, New York State Public Health Association. “The industry knows that 90% of adult smokers started before age 18.”

CDTFC recently visited 21 tobacco retailers in Albany, Rensselaer, and Schenectady counties. Its visits revealed while most stores complied with the law prohibiting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, all still sold menthol cigarettes with various assortments of other flavored tobacco products.

“There is still no shortage of – “sweet, cheap and easy to get” – flavored tobacco products in our communities,” said Jeanie Orr, Program Manager, CDTFC. “You can still purchase a 5 for $1 pack of Watermelon or ‘Wet and Fruity’ SHOW brand cigarillos or a ‘Black &Mild Sweet’ cigar for 79 cents.”

In May of 2020, there was a significant response effort by the U.S. Surgeon General to the nationwide epidemic of e-cigarette use among youth. The New York State ended the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol.

In the latest New York Youth Tobacco Survey, youth tobacco decreased from 2018 to 2020 in about every category. However, one in four high school students still uses some form of tobacco product, and 22.5% use e-cigarettes say CDTFC.

“The industry knows that 90% of adult smokers started before age 18. They have to make their products appealing to kids in order to hook the next generation of smokers and protect their bottom line,” said Dr. Birkhead. “New York state and some local communities have taken a lot of important steps to stop the industry in their tracks, but we can and need to do more.” 

To learn more about Seen Enough Tobacco Day, visit the ‘Seen Enough Tobacco webpage.

Check out the survey here