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Schumer Pushes Legislation To Prevent Tobacco Companies From Targeting Young Smokers And Require Stringent Warnings On The Dangers Of Cigarettes

Almost 25,000 NYS Children Will Become Regular Smokers This Year; Over 1 Million Will Be Exposed To Second Hand Smoke At Home

Schumer: We Must End Dangerous Tobacco Company Practices That Target Our Children

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today revealed that, due in part to tobacco ads targeted at minors, 79,800 children from New York State will have their first cigarette this year and 23,900 of them will become regular smokers.  In order to combat the problem, Senator Schumer announced that he is pushing legislation, introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy, which has been 15 years in the making, to prevent tobacco companies from targeting underage smokers with advertisements and products.   


The legislation, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which has the support of the President and is set to pass the Senate this week, will give the FDA authority to regulate tobacco, tobacco advertising and additives put in cigarettes. 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.   


“Thousands of children are becoming addicted to this deadly product each year because of targeted campaigns that portray smoking and chewing tobacco as the cool thing to do,” said Schumer. “We must find ways to end dangerous tobacco company practices that target our children, and this legislation is the critical step toward that goal. 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.”


Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 Americans and resulting in $96 billion in health care costs every year. Despite tobacco’s huge societal cost, tobacco products are amongst the most unregulated consumer products on the market today; they are exempt from important and basic consumer protections, such as ingredients disclosures, product testing and restriction on marketing to children.


In New York State, smoking alone kills 25,400 people a year. For every person in New York who dies from smoking, approximately 20 more state residents are suffering from serious smoking-caused disease and disability, or other tobacco-caused health problems. Smoking-related illness also puts enormous strain on our health care system, driving up costs for all taxpayers. If smoking levels remain the same, 389,000 kids alive in New York State today will ultimately die from smoking and 1,120,000 kids will be exposed to second hand smoke at home.


According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, children are three times more sensitive to tobacco advertising than adults and are more likely to be influenced to smoke by cigarette marketing than by peer pressure. In fact, one-third of underage experimentation with smoking is attributable to tobacco, company marketing which may explain why in New York alone, the tobacco industry spends $443.8 million every year on marketing strategies. These strategies have a direct affect on kids’ decision to buy or smoke tobacco products, as illustrated by the fact that kids in New York buy or smoke 35.5 million packs of cigarettes each year.


These marketing tactics also lead to an increase in first-time and regular smokers at a young age. In New York State, 13.8% of high school students smoke cigarettes and 8% of high school males use smokeless tobacco. Each year almost 100,000 kids under the age of 18 will try their first Tobacco product and of those, almost 25,000 of them will become regular smokers. 


Here is how the number breaks down across Upstate New York:



Teen Smokers

Teen Smokeless Tobacco Users

Total Teen Tobacco Product Users

Capital Region Total




Central New York Total




Hudson Valley Total




North Country Total




Rochester-Finger Lakes Region




Southern Tier Total




Western New York Total




Total Upstate






The medical costs associated with tobacco are also staggering. New York State spends $8.17 billion annually on health care expenditures caused by tobacco use. At the same time, annual health care expenditures in New York from secondhand smoke exposure are a shocking $307.7 million.


To prevent tobacco companies from targeting underage smokers with advertisements and products, and to help mitigate tobacco–related medical costs, Senator Schumer announced today that he will be pushing legislation, introduced by Senator Edward Kennedy, called the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009. The bill will amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to grant the FDA authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products. 


According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, there is ample evidence that tobacco companies are targeting young smokers:


         Eighty-six percent of kids who smoke (but only about a third of adults) prefer Marlboro, Camel and Newport  the three most heavily advertised brands.  Marlboro, the most heavily advertised brand, controls almost 60 percent of the youth market but only about 25 percent of the adult market.

         Almost 90 percent of adults who have ever been regular smokers began smoking at or before age 18.

         Thirty percent of kids (12 to 17 years old), both smokers and nonsmokers, own at least one tobacco promotional item, such as T-shirts, backpacks, and CD players.

         The development and marketing of “starter products” with such features as pouches and cherry flavoring have resulted in smokeless tobacco going from a product used primarily by older men to one for which young men comprise the largest portion of the market.  Nearly 14 percent of high school boys are current smokeless tobacco users.

         Most of the recent increase in tobacco advertising was in retail store marketing, which is highly effective at reaching kids. Studies show that 75 percent of teens shop at convenience stores at least once a week, and they are more likely than adults to be influenced by convenience store promotions.

         Tobacco advertising and promotions also increased in convenience stores and other retail outlets after a billboard ban took effect in April 1999.

         Several studies found that the leading cigarette and smokeless tobacco brands have all increased their advertising in youth-oriented magazines, such as Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone. 

         While the tobacco industry claims its marketing is intended only to influence brand preferences of current smokers and does not play any role in kids’ decisions to start smoking, several recent studies show otherwise. These studies show not only tobacco advertising influences kids to smoke, but has its greatest impact on kids whose parents follow recommended parenting practices to prevent their kids from smoking and engaging in other risky behaviors.

         Several recent surveys prove the impact of tobacco marketing on kids. A March 2002 survey by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids found that kids are twice as likely as adults to remember tobacco advertising. And the federal government’s National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that 87 percent of youth smokers smoke the three most heavily advertised brands – Philip Morris’ Marlboro, Lorillard’s Newport, and R.J. Reynolds’ Camel (55 percent of youth smokers prefer Marlboro) – compared to less than half of adult smokers who prefer these brands.


The legislation includes specific restrictions on youth access and marketing and grants FDA authority to take additional actions in the future to protect the public health. The regulations would become effective no later than one year after enactment. These regulations:

  • Ban all outdoor tobacco advertising within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds,
  • Ban all remaining tobacco-brand sponsorships of sports and entertainment events,
  • Ban free giveaways of any non-tobacco items with the purchase of a tobacco product or in exchange for coupons or proof of purchase,
  • Limit advertising in publications with significant teen readership as well as outdoor and point-of-sale advertising, except in adult-only facilities, to black-and-white text only,
  • Restrict vending machines and self-service displays to adult-only facilities, and
  • Require retailers to verify age for all over-the-counter sales and provide for federal enforcement and penalties against retailers who sell to minors.




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