Science has made it perfectly clear over the last 60 years that smoking is a dangerous and potentially fatal habit. With that at the forefront, Westchester County Executive George Latimer has launched the Westchester Tobacco Free Program, a two-prong approach to lowering the smoking rate in the County.
Latimer said: “Addiction to nicotine products has cut short numerous lives to lung disease, heart disease and related illnesses; has robbed otherwise healthy individuals of their good health; has robbed families of fathers, mothers, siblings and other loved ones prematurely. That is why we are tackling the issue head on with Westchester Tobacco Free, a robust education and enforcement Program.”
Westchester Tobacco Free – Education
The County will fund and implement a robust $3 million dollar public education campaign to all residents, highlighting the dangers of tobacco usage, offering efforts to help smokers quit smoking, and to support local community efforts to reduce smoking. This will include a new direct grant Program to community-based non-profits directly involved in tobacco-cessation as part of their anti-addiction efforts, and particularly those groups like local NAACP branches who have advocated for efforts to reduce smoking in communities of color.
The Program will be crafted with the assistance and oversight of members of the Board of Legislators to ensure the County is reaching all smokers, regardless of their geographic or demographic status. This effort will involve our Health Department, Community Mental Health Department, Youth Board and other related departments and offices of Westchester County Government to ensure its success.
Westchester Tobacco Free – Enforcement
The County will develop a multi-level Program, working with state and local government resources to ensure improved enforcement of our existing Tobacco 21 age limit. Under the leadership of Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins, the County will convene a conference with representatives from law enforcement agencies, prosecutorial and judicial offices, business leaders and youth organization leaders to develop a thorough plan to make sure no person under the age of 21 is able to obtain any type of tobacco product, which is clearly illegal by means of County, State and Federal law.
Jenkins said: “There is a path forward, and that path includes fighting addiction with all parties at the table. We need to identify what is necessary to ensure that Tobacco 21, the current law prohibiting sales of tobacco to those under 21, is being enforced.”
History of anti-smoking initiatives in Westchester County:
- Ended smoking in public settings, including bars and restaurants (1996);
- Funded a tobacco-cessation education effort utilizing to tobacco settlement funds (1999);
- Ended all sales of tobacco products to minors under the age of 21 (2018). Subsequently, both the State of New York, and the United States, has made tobacco sales illegal for all who have not yet reached their 21st birthday.
Latimer said: “In the report of the New York State Department of Health [August 2021], Westchester County had the lowest percent of adult current smokers among the 62 counties, 7.0%. However, we are not yet satisfied; we can do more.”