2011-09-23 / Top Stories

New York City Smokers Hit All Time Low

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs and Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas A. Farley announced that New York City’s adult smoking rate has reached an all-time low with only 14 out of 100 New Yorkers still smoking. This marks a decrease in the number of New Yorkers who smoke by 35 percent since 2002, when the Health Department began its efforts to reduce tobacco use.

This translates to approximately 450,000 fewer adult smokers in New York City, with some of the steepest declines registered among Staten Islanders and teens city-wide. Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Farley were joined at the Health Department’s new Long Island City headquarters for today’s announcement by Senator Michael Gianaris, Council Member Gale Brewer and a New Yorker who has successfully quit smoking through the City’s efforts.

“Smoking is the leading cause of preventable, premature death in New York City and the nation today and we’re proud that a record number of News Yorkers are saving their own lives by quitting,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “This decrease will prevent 50,000 premature deaths by the year 2052 and I encourage those who are still smoking to take this opportunity to get help quitting by calling 311 today.”

Since 2002, smoking dropped from a high of 22 out of 100 people to the current low of 14 out of 100. From 2009 to 2010, the smoking rate decreased by 11 percent representing 100,000 fewer smokers in that one year alone. This is the largest decline in smoking prevalence since a significant 2002-2003 decline from 22 percent to 19 percent (1,305,000 to 1,167,000 people), immediately following the 2002 passage of New York City’s Smoke-Free Air Act and the 2002 New York State cigarette tax increase.

Staten Island, which has long been the borough with high smoking rates, achieved an especially steep decline in smoking between 2009 and 2010, with a drop from 19 to 14 percent. Additionally, some neighborhoods, including Flatbush Canarsie, Central Harlem and southern Staten Island have now seen a greater than 50 percent decline in adult smoking since 2002.

Smoking among teenagers has also dropped dramatically from 2001 to 2010 with the proportion of public high school students who smoke cut by more than half, from 18 percent to 7 percent. The New York City teen numbers are drastically lower than the national youth numbers, which showed a decline from 29% in 2001 to 20 % in 2009.

Tobacco control legislation and other public health initiatives throughout the last decade have contributed to an increase in New Yorkers’ life expectancy by more than a year and a half to 79.4. Some of the significant changes in tobacco control policy include: Smoke Free Air Act

In the last ten years, Mayor Bloomberg and City Council have reduced the exposure to secondhand smoke for millions of New Yorkers by passing several measures to strengthen the City’s Smoke Free Air Act (SFAA). In 2002, the SFAA made virtually all workplaces, including bars and restaurants, smoke-free. In 2009, the SFAA was again expanded to cover hospital entrances and grounds. Most recently in May 2011, our public parks, beaches, and pedestrian plazas became smokefree. Hard-hitting Public Health Education Campaigns

Since 2006, NYC began airing some of the most hard-hitting anti-smoking public health education campaigns in the country. These have driven tens of thousands of calls to 311 for quit assistance, particularly during the City’s free annual Nicotine Patch and Gum Program which enrolls approximately 40,000 smokers each year over the course of 16 days. Point of Sale Tobacco Warning Signs

In 2009, the City’s Board of Health passed a regulation requiring that all tobacco retailers in the city post signs displaying the graphic effects of tobacco on the body to warn consumers about the risk of tobacco use. Although the law was overturned in December by the Southern District court, it is currently being appealed to the Second Circuit. Prohibiting Sale to Minors

NYC currently has approximately 10,600 tobacco retailers. Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) licenses cigarette retailers in New York City, and enforces

City and State laws that prohibit the sale of tobacco to minors. Additionally, all retail tobacco dealers in New York City must register with the State Department of Taxation and Finance to sell tobacco products in New York City. DCA also runs one of the best and most comprehensive Youth Tobacco Enforcement and Prevention Programs in the country. This program, which pairs inspectors and undercover minors, inspects essentially every City cigarette retail dealer every year to ensure they do not sell tobacco products to underage kids.

The New York City Health Department also works to educate retailers on youth access laws through a grant from New York State. Stores’ compliance was at 52 percent when the program formally began in 1998. In fiscal year 2011 DCA did 9659 inspections and compliance had improved to 90 percent. Stopping Illicit Sale of Cigarettes

Because keeping cigarette prices high promotes quitting, especially among youth, the City has been at the forefront of efforts to stop the illegal bootlegging of cigarettes on which State and City taxes have not been paid. The City has commenced – lawsuits that have shut down internet cigarette sellers, reservation cigarette sellers, cigarette wholesalers and cigarette shippers, seeking to stop cigarette bootlegging.

The City has also worked with Congress to pass federal legislation designed to prohibit the shipment of cigarettes through the mail.

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