Governor Hochul has proposed a tax increase of $1 per pack of cigarettes. While this measure will certainly be a deterrent to current smokers and would in fact give NYS the strongest state cigarette tax in the nation, it does not do enough to protect our youth.
The overwhelming majority of our youth initiate nicotine use with vaping products (1). They mistakenly believe that vaping is safe (2) and most are unaware that the vapes even contain nicotine (3). To the contrary, some vaping products contain significantly more nicotine than combustible cigarettes leading to faster addiction (4). Pediatricians like myself have come to understand that there is no tried and true method to help teens overcome their nicotine addiction with many of our patients struggling unsuccessfully to quit.
Another important factor in teens choosing vaped nicotine products over cigarettes is the cost (5) with vaping products significantly less expensive and more affordable for teens to purchase. Many teens who vape go on to use combustible cigarettes and are also more likely to vape cannabis and use other drugs (6), (7).
Preventing initiation of vaping in the first place is critical to preventing addiction to nicotine and a snowball effect toward the use of other substances. We know that nicotine use in adolescence can have significant effects on brain development which is ongoing through the age of 25. Detrimental effects are seen on the ability to concentrate, on emotional health, on school performance and success and of course on long term health (8); 280,000 of New York’s youth now under 18 are projected to die prematurely from smoking (9).
The legislature should support the Governor’s tobacco control budget initiatives but should also urge her to raise taxes not only on cigarettes but on the vaping products that most teens use. We must do all we can to stop the cycle, keep these products out of the hands of our youth and prevent the next generation from becoming addicted.
Eve Meltzer Krief, MD FAAP
- Legislative Co-Chair NY Chapter 2 American Academy of Pediatrics
- NYS Tobacco Advisory Board