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​​​​New case study highlights New York City's comprehensive point-of-sale policies

CPHSS recently published its third case study for the Advancing Science and Policy in the Retail Environment (ASPiRE) project, funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) State & Community Tobacco Control (SCTC) Research Initiative. Along with partners at the University of North Carolina and Stanford University, CPHSS is working to address important under-studied aspects of state and community tobacco control policy. The case study, Reducing Cheap Tobacco and Youth Access: New York City, highlights policy progress at the point of sale in New York City (NYC). In 2013, NYC passed two of the most comprehensive POS policies in the nation. The first policy, Tobacco 21, raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarettes from 18 to 21. The second policy, Sensible Tobacco Enforcement restricted price discounts, set minimum price and packaging requirements, and increased enforcement and penalties for tax evasion.
The case study provides a roadmap through the policy development process, from initial data collection and partnership building to implementation and enforcement. New York City won out over concerns about the economic impact and legal challenges fueled by the tobacco industry. Other municipalities can learn from NYC’s experience in their attempts to pass similar point-of-sale policies.
A key element of NYC’s success was strong local and national partnerships. The Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, a national legal network that supports municipalities in tobacco control policy work, provided technical assistance. The experiences of Needham, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island provided evidence of similar policies’ success in other communities.
The local coalition, NYC Smoke-Free, played a key role by engaging community partners and policymakers in campaigns to raise awareness of the prevalence of tobacco marketing. During the “Take a Walk in Our Shoes” campaign, youth joined policymakers on walks from school to the nearest subway station, emphasizing tobacco’s heavy presence in their community. Sheelah Feinberg, then executive director of NYC Smoke-Free said, “Having elected officials join us on those walking tours was very impactful, because they got to see tobacco marketing’s impact on youth firsthand.” Partners stood united in support at the public hearing on the policies, telling stories of tobacco’s impact on youth and adults, citing evidence of the problem and of the policies’ effectiveness.
Soon after the policies passed, the tobacco industry filed a lawsuit claiming that the price-discounting component of Sensible Tobacco Enforcement violated the First Amendment. In June 2014, the price-discounting component was upheld as lawful by a U.S. District Court and by August 2014 both policies were fully implemented.
The impact of the policies has spread as states and neighboring cities have taken notice. Less than a month after NYC announced plans for Tobacco 21, state legislators in New York and New Jersey introduced similar bills that currently await approval. “Preventing our youth from smoking has now truly become a regional effort,” said then NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

To read the full study, visit here.

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