The law- the nation's second ban on most indoor smoking - took effect July 24, 2003. Health Advocates say it is a milestone that has saved lived. Restaurants say they haven't seen the fallout that was expected- but some people lost jobs.
(WBEN/AP) Few measures in Albany changed life in New York more.The law relegated most smokers outdoors while relieving nonsmokers from facing secondhand smoke every day at work.
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RELATED: Loophole In Insurance Rules for Smokers | Study: Menthol Cigarettes Worse Than Regular Ones
WBEN's Tim Wenger writes:
" If you need a reminder of what life was like then, just stop in at a casino and it should all come back to you quickly! Remember those days of hanging your clothes to air them out from the smoke inside many institutions? " READ MORE
. "In 2002, the average New York bar or restaurant was essentially a hotbox of deadly carcinogens. For hospitality workers clocking an eight-hour shift, this was an incredibly dangerous situation."In the decade ending in 2009, smoking among New York adults declined from 22 percent to 17 percent. The share of smokers seeking to quit increased to 65 percent, from 54 percent, Horner said.
But before that, it cost jobs and businesses, said the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association, which sued the state over the ban on behalf of restaurant and bar owners who were "petrified by the law."
But not for long.
"People lost their jobs and lost their businesses," said association Executive Director Scott Wexler. "But in the long term, it did not have the impact the industry feared.
"For 18 months after the law was enacted, business dropped off and bars and restaurants closed or cut jobs as smokers stayed home or went to private clubs and fraternal groups."
Wexler said restaurants saw a 3 to 4 percent loss of business, while bars saw an 18 percent decline and the association lost 20 percent of its membership. Today, few owners complain unless they are in direct competition with private clubs or bars without outdoor patios where smoking is allowed. Business returned quickly, but most operators didn't get the bump in business that anti-smokers predicted. Several operators did say new customers were attracted by the smoke-free environment.
"On the restaurant side of the business, our members are now saying the things the anti-smoking advocates said they would experience: It's nice going home not smelling of smoke, it's cheaper to keep the restaurant clean and they don't know how they worked in a smoking environment before," Wexler said.
Finding some shade in 90-degree heat, Donna Twitty puffed away outside air-conditioned comfort in Albany. But she didn't mind at all.
"It was an adjustment," said the 34-year-old two-pack-a-week smoker from New York City. "But I prefer to do it outdoors because other people shouldn't have to breathe in my smoke."
But the perspective can still be pretty heated at the other end of the cigarette.
"The incursion into private lives over an informed legal lifestyle choice is nothing to celebrate," said Audrey Silk, founder of the national smokers' rights group Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment. "Questionable shady statistics over health and business are irrelevant."
She said the public hype by government and the media supporting the ban overstates the view and notes that many establishments have defied the ban.
Food and Drug Administration review concludes that menthol cigarettes pose a greater public health risk than regular cigarettes.
The federal agency released the independent review on Tuesday. It is seeking input from the health community, the tobacco industry and others on possible restrictions on the minty smokes.
An advisory panel told the FDA in a 2011 report that removing menthol cigarettes from the market would benefit public health because the flavoring has led to an increase in smokers and makes quitting harder. The report, however, said menthol smokers are not likely to be at a higher risk of disease or exposed to a greater number of toxins.
The FDA's review reiterates those findings but does not make a recommendation on whether to limit or ban menthol in cigarettes.
A 2006 Health and Economic Impact of New York's clean Indoor Air Act found that by 2005, 80 percent of New Yorkers supported the law, including one-third to one-half of smokers. The Health Department cited academic studies that found no impact or a positive impact from indoor smoking bans.
The study's analysis of tax records showed no loss in business in the first two years. The department's survey found New Yorkers who went to bars and restaurants would be slightly more likely to visit more often because of the law.
There remains much to do, said Horner of the Cancer Society.
Currently, 25,000 adults in New York die each year from smoking and the Cancer Society projects that 389,000 kids now younger than 18 will die prematurely from smoking. He said efforts must be increased to keep young people from starting and noted that state funding for smoking cessation programs has been cut over the last four years.
"New York state won a battle against Big Tobacco on this front, but the war is far from over," Horner said.
A glitch involving President Barack Obama's health care law means smokers may get at least some relief next year from tobacco-use penalties that could have made their premiums unaffordable.
In yet another health care overhaul delay, the administration has quietly notified insurers that a computer system problem will limit penalties that the law says the companies may charge smokers. A fix will take at least a year.
Older smokers are more likely to benefit from the glitch, experts say. But depending on how insurers respond to it, it's also possible that younger smokers could wind up facing higher penalties than they otherwise would have.
Some see an emerging pattern of last-minute switches and delays as the administration scrambles to prepare the Oct. 1 launch of new health insurance markets for people who don't have job-based insurance. Last week, the White House unexpectedly announced a one-year postponement of a major provision in the law that requires larger employers to offer coverage or face fines.
The smokers' glitch is "a temporary circumstance that in no way impacts our ability to open the marketplaces on Oct. 1," Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters said in a statement.
A June 28 HHS document couched the problem in technical language:
"Because of a system limitation ... the system currently cannot process a premium for a 65-year-old smoker that is ... more than three times the premium of a 21-year-old smoker," the industry guidance said.
If an insurer tries to charge more, "the submission of the (insurer) will be rejected by the system," it added.
Starting in 2014, the law requires insurance companies to accept all applicants regardless of pre-existing medical problems. But it also allows them to charge smokers up to 50 percent higher premiums - a way for insurers to ward off bad risks.
For an older smoker, the cost of the full penalty could be prohibitive.
Premiums for a standard "silver" insurance plan would be about $9,000 a year for a 64-year-old non-smoker, according to the online Kaiser Health Reform Subsidy Calculator. That's before any tax credits, available on a sliding scale based on income.
For a smoker of the same age, the full 50 percent penalty would add more than $4,500 to the cost of the policy, bringing it to nearly $13,600. And new tax credits available to help pay premiums cannot be used to offset the penalty.
The underlying reason for the glitch is another provision in the health care law that says insurers can't charge older customers more than three times what they charge the youngest adults in the pool. The government's computer system has been unable to accommodate the two.
The administration is suggesting that insurers limit the penalties across all age groups. The HHS guidance document used the example of a 20 percent penalty for young and old alike.
In that case the premium for a 64-year-old would be about $10,900, a significant cut from the $13,600 if insurers charged the full penalty.
Younger smokers and older smokers can still be charged different penalties, but if the total of premiums and penalties is more than three times greater for older smokers, the system will kick it out.
Insurers had not expected such limitations. Before the glitch popped up, experts said the companies would probably charge low penalties for younger smokers, and much higher ones for older ones.
"Generally a 20-year-old who smokes probably doesn't have much higher health costs than someone who doesn't smoke in any given year," said Larry Levitt, an insurance market expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. "A 60-year-old is another story."
It's unclear what insurance companies will do.
Another workaround for the companies would be to charge the full penalty to both younger and older smokers. In that case, there wouldn't be any savings for older smokers, and younger ones would see a big price shock.
Levitt said he suspects insurers will keep the penalties low to sign up more young people. That's happened so far in three states, he added.
But health care industry consultant Bob Laszweski said he thinks insurers will do the opposite, hitting young and old with high penalties. "It's going to throw cold water on efforts to get younger people to sign up," he said.
Workers covered through job-based health plans would be able to avoid tobacco penalties by joining smoking cessation programs because employer plans operate under different rules.