Big Tobacco in the Big Apple

How New York City Became the Heart of the Tobacco Industry
…and Anti Smoking Activism

Conclusion: Where Things Stand

Final Thoughts (2:11)


– Allocation of Resources and the Effectiveness of Anti-Smoking Legislation

– The Difficulty of Gauging Smoking Cessation Success

– Reluctance to Take Public Health Positions on Tobacco

– Challenges to Anti-Smoking Efforts

– New York City in the Post-Bloomberg Era

– Smoke-Free Housing and the Backlash

– Tobacco Retailing

– Decline in the Quality of Tobacco Company Representatives

When Philip Morris became the leading corporate sponsor of the Arts in the United States, thanks to its innovative chief executive officer, George Weismann, the slogan the company adopted was “It takes art to make a company great.” It was a way for them to burnish the company’s image, you have to as a maker of cigarettes, but the parody that my group DOC did “It takes art to make complacency great.”, really was an important reminder that, unless we are always as mindful of how these rogue industries operate they will keep going, and they’ll wait us out.

They are very dynamic, we tend to introduce a law, and once it’s passed we go away. Laws are static, corporations such as Philip Morris, you have to give them credit, are extremely dynamic and creative. And so it is with the tobacco industry in New York City as with everywhere else we thought we had them on the ropes, but in recent years the smoking rates have leveled off.

The introduction of electronic cigarettes has created a popular interest in vaping and wanting to not be included in laws prohibiting smoking. Since vaping doesn’t carry the same risk of having the combustible tobacco smoke, the argument is that we’re not causing any harm, certainly not to anybody else and we’re really not causing any odor that can spoil your evening. But the fact is that smoking has really leveled off but hasn’t declined to the level we had hoped it would be.

The good news is that public housing may be going smoke free thanks to leaders like Phil Konigsberg and others, and overall we have to say that effort to curb smoking and cigarettes promotion has been successful. But we must always be mindful of the fact that this industry remains as profitable as any. If you had purchased a share of Philip Morris in 1957 and sold it in 2007, you would have turned out to have held the most profitable single stock on the New York Stock Exchange, during that time.

The most addictive thing about tobacco, according to Dr. Ed Anselm, is the money; and that remains the problem with ending the tobacco pandemic.

“SMOKING ON THE RISE: NYC launching new health campaign to stem rise in tobacco use” (3 pages)

Article by Ivan Pereira
September 16, 2014

“City alarmed over increase in number of NYers lighting up”

“Year: 2010 — Number of smokers: 853,000  % of city population: 14.0%
“Year 2013 — Number of smokers: 1.03 million % of city population: 16.1%”


Advertisement by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for American Spirit cigarettes
TIME Magazine
November 21, 2011

Parody of American Spirit cigarettes advertisement
MAD Magazine
January 2013

“Smoking in public places… is not among the activist causes included in the exhibition” (2 pages)

Letter from Alan Blum, MD, to Sarah Seidman, curator of the “Activist New York” exhibition for the Museum of the City of New York, proposing that the museum include a section on anti-smoking in its permanent “Activist New York” exhibition
August 2, 2015


Magazine advertisement for Blu electronic cigarettes featuring the landmark
Flatiron Building

“Public Housing May Be Subject To Smoking Ban” (2 pages)

Article by Mireya Navarro
The New York Times
November 12, 2015

“Ban on smoking inside of public housing proposed”

Associated Press article by David R. Martin and Jennifer C. Kerr
Tuscaloosa News
November 12, 2015

“Fed ban for smoking in all project apts.”

Article by Dale Eisinger and Greg B. Smith
New York Daily News
November 13, 2015

“They’re Coming for Your Cigarettes. It’s O.K.”

The New York Times
November 13, 2015

“Just butt out”

New York Daily News
November 13, 2015

“Once a Leading Foe, New York Lags Under de Blasio”

Article by William Neuman
The New York Times
January 23, 2017

“Question of Enforcement Greets Smoking Plan”

Article by J. David Goodman and Mireya Navarro
The New York Times
November 13, 2015

Thank You For Viewing: Big Tobacco in the Big Apple

How New York City Became the Heart of the Tobacco Industry …and Anti Smoking Activism