(New York, NY) – Today, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, (Brooklyn-51 AD) , Chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, expressed his outrage at an article published in the January 27, 2009 edition of the New York Post. In this article, the Post reported on an informal study done by Bronx High School of Science senior Hayden Miller which found that 55% of stores in his study sold cigarettes to minors. This number represents a far cry from the 89% compliance rate cited by the city in 2007. Mr. Miller contributed the wide difference to the fact that while he was able to ‘lie’ about his age, operatives in official sting operations are not.
“The dangers associated with smoking have a broad and lasting impact on all of us. From both a health and economic perspective, it is our duty to ensure that our children are protected. Ensuring that merchants are obeying the law and not selling cigarettes illegally to minors is one piece of the puzzle,” said Ortiz. He continued, “We must continue to push towards the goal eliminating the sale of tobacco to minors and making choices that promote a healthy tomorrow.”
A spokesman from the New York State Department of Health responded to the disparities highlighted in the article by saying, "The sale of cigarettes to underage teens continues to be a major concern of our office. The State Health Department funds similar 'sting' operations around the state, but we adhere to a very strict protocol to ensure the safety of its participants. The State Department of Health is committed to improving the health of all New Yorkers through youth smoking prevention programs, including 'sting' operations."
According to a 2008 report from the New York City Health Department, the city’s teen smoking rate has dropped by more than half over the past six years, from 17.6 percent in 2001 to 8.5 percent in 2007. According to recent statistics, New York City’s youth smoking rate is about two thirds lower than the latest available national teen smoking rate of 23 percent.
“New York has been a leader in the fight against youth smoking. These numbers are a reminder that we must continue to fight for our children and be vigilant in ensuring that cigarettes are not being sold to minors,” said Ortiz.