More teens in Brooklyn use tobacco than in any borough, according to a federal lawmaker promoting legislation he hopes will help young lungs curb the harmful habit.
Nearly a third of all teen tobacco users citywide reside in Brooklyn, which has 25,000 teen smokers and 7,300 users of smokeless tobacco, according to Sen. Charles Schumer. Brooklyn’s teen smoking numbers represent a staggering 33 percent of teen smokers citywide, he noted.
In order to combat the problem, Schumer announced last week that he is pushing legislation that will prevent tobacco companies from targeting underage smokers with advertisements and products.
“With thousands of children in Brooklyn addicted to cigarettes and tobacco companies coming up with new, creative ways to target even more children, the time to act is now,” Schumer said in a statement to this paper. “Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States and we must find ways to end dangerous tobacco company practices that target our children. We might not stop all of Brooklyn’s children from smoking, but this is surely a step in the right direction.”
The legislation, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, was introduced by Sen. Ted Kennedy, and has the support of the president. The bill will give the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco, additives put in cigarettes, and tobacco advertising.
The bill would trigger a host of regulations, including banning all outdoor tobacco advertising within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds, ban of all remaining tobacco−brand sponsorships of sports and entertainment events, and a ban free giveaways of any non−tobacco items with the purchase of a tobacco product or in exchange for coupons or proof of purchase.
Due in part to tobacco ads targeted at minors, almost 79,800 children from the state will have their first cigarette this year and almost 23,900 of them will become regular smokers, Schumer said. In New York State, 13.8% of high school students smoke cigarettes and 8% use smokeless tobacco.
Research indicates that tobacco companies frequently target minors of high school age and younger because they are the most easily influenced. Schumer said that although the legislation will not prevent people from smoking or place any new taxes on cigarettes, it will ensure that claims tobacco companies make about their product are true and will prevent advertising and tobacco products targeted at minors.
“This legislation alone cannot stop our children from smoking, but it will ensure that cigarettes and tobacco are characterized as what they are: dangerously addictive drugs that can, over time, be fatal,” Schumer said.