Health Department Launches "What's in Your Ashtray?" Campaign, Reminding New Yorkers That Cigarettes Are Now $13 Per Pack

Free nicotine patches and lozenges are available today through Wednesday, June 27 by applying online at or calling 1-866-NY-QUITS

What's in your ashtray campaign poster

June 12, 2018 — The Health Department today launched a new media campaign encouraging New Yorkers to quit smoking. The campaign emphasizes the cost of cigarettes, which could add up to the equivalent of two months of groceries, family cell phone bills for a year, or a vacation. On June 1, the minimum price of cigarettes in New York City increased from $10.50 to $13, the highest in the nation. The Health Department also launched a campaign, in partnership with the New York State Smokers’ Quitline, to give away free nicotine patches to eligible New Yorkers through June 27. Medication and counseling make it two times as likely for someone to quit smoking successfully. The media campaign will run in English and Spanish on TV, social media, in newspapers, in the subway, and on the Staten Island Ferry.

“For someone who smokes cigarettes regularly, cigarettes can cost as much as two months’ worth of groceries,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Increasing price is one of the most effective ways to prevent and reduce smoking, especially among kids. As a former smoker, I encourage all New Yorkers who smoke to take advantage of this free giveaway today.”

“Smoking addiction is a difficult reality that many New Yorkers, myself included, have struggled to overcome,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “This campaign reminds people that it’s never too late to quit and resources are available to help achieve this worthy goal. I want to thank Commissioner Bassett and the Health Department for their continued efforts to help New Yorkers quit smoking.”

“For over a decade, NYC has led the nation in policies to improve public health by reducing the number of New Yorkers who smoke,” said Council Health Chair Mark Levine. “As the Council’s new law raising the minimum price of cigarettes takes effect — I’m grateful to the Health Department’s commitment to building on the progress we’ve made by launching this campaign and giving away nicotine patches.”

“The ‘What's in your Ashtray’ campaign further proves our City's commitment to helping New Yorkers quit smoking once for all. This effort will raise critical awareness on the elevated cost of cigarettes, which now stands at $13 per packet, and how it could add up to the equivalent of necessary expenses, such as two months of groceries for a family cell phone bill for a year. It will also provide eligible New Yorkers free giveaways in an effort to support them as they start the process of quitting,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “As the Ranking Member of the Senate Health Committee, I look forward to continue working with our City’s administration to protect the health of our communities from the unquestionable dangers associated with tobacco use and smoking.”

Eligible enrollees will receive a NYC Quits Kit which includes a coaching guide in four languages, and a four-week supply of patches and/or lozenges depending on the number of cigarettes smoked daily. New Yorkers who want help quitting can apply to get patches and/or lozenges at no cost by completing an easy online form at or by calling 1-866-NY-QUITS.

Tobacco is a leading contributor to preventable, premature death in New York City, killing an estimated 12,000 people annually. While smoking rates in New York City declined from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 13.1 percent in 2016, there are still more than 850,000 New York adults who smoke. In addition, about 15,000 New York City youth smoke cigarettes. Cigarettes are the only consumer products that — when used as intended — kill up to half of long-term users. Quitting smoking lowers the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, cancers and many other illnesses. Increasing the price of cigarettes has been shown to prevent youth and adults from starting to smoke and encourages those who do smoke to quit or cut back.

In August 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed several bills into law to reduce tobacco use, including raising the minimum prices for all tobacco products; capping and reducing through attrition the number of tobacco retailers citywide; creating a retail license for e-cigarettes and capping the number of e-cigarette retailers; and banning the sale of tobacco products at pharmacies.

Tips to make quitting easier:

  • Find your reasons. Make a list of your reasons for quitting and read it often.
  • Pick a quit date. Choose a day that works for you and gives you time to prepare. Throw out all of your cigarettes beforehand, and get rid of ashtrays and lighters.
  • Get support and encouragement. Tell your family, friends and coworkers that you are quitting and ask for their support.
  • Notice and avoid what triggers cravings. Alcohol, coffee, stress, and being around others who smoke can all trigger cravings. Notice what makes you feel like smoking so that you can avoid those situations, change your routine, and have a plan to deal with your triggers.
  • Keep trying. It takes almost everyone multiple tries to quit smoking, so don’t be afraid to try again. You haven’t failed — you have learned more about your triggers. Throw out your cigarettes and start again.

Earlier this year, the Health Department launched the NYC HelpMeQuit mobile app, a free tool to help New Yorkers quit smoking. Developed with input from smokers trying to quit, HelpMeQuit includes tips to stop cravings; social support from other people using HelpMeQuit and Facebook friends; connection to existing smoking cessation resources (such as the Quitline and a map of nearby clinics); and in-app games to distract from smoking. The app helps New Yorkers track their progress through money saved by not purchasing cigarettes; cigarettes not smoked; badges earned for reaching milestones; and time — down to the hour — since they quit smoking.

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