Dramatic Decline in New York City Smoking Rate Shows Tobacco Control Policies Work

Statement of William V. Corr, Executive Director Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

May. 12 2004

Washington, DC — Dramatic declines in smoking reported today by New York City should put to rest any remaining doubts that tobacco control measures like high cigarette taxes and smoke-free workplace policies work to reduce smoking. A new report by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene shows the city and state’s combined comprehensive approach has drastically reduced smoking. The report shows that the number of adult smokers has declined by 11 percent in just one year – that’s approximately 100,000 fewer smokers.

The report completely destroys the tobacco industry’s specious contention that the decrease in the number of cigarettes sold after the high cigarette tax hikes is explained by increased smoker tax evasion and smuggling. Indeed, the data from New York City show that the increased cigarette tax has resulted in sharply reduced smoking rates and a quarter of a billion dollars in new revenue for the city.

New York City is one of the few places in America that has enacted all three of the best proven public policies to reduce smoking – a high tax on tobacco products, a strong smoke-free workplace law that includes restaurants and bars, and effective tobacco cessation and youth prevention campaigns designed to help smokers quit and prevent kids from ever starting. These policies combine to help smokers do what they’ve wanted to do for a long time – quit smoking.

New York City’s results are the latest in a long series of evidence showing that we know how to reduce the toll of tobacco – all we need is the political will to enact these proven policies. The only people who contest this argument are tobacco executives. New York’s efforts should spur states and communities across the country to redouble their efforts to reduce tobacco use by increasing tobacco taxes, enacting strong smoke-free workplace laws and funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

The study was conducted for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene by Baruch College. The first random-dial telephone survey of 10,000 people was in 2002 and the second in 2003. The results have a margin of error of 1%. The study relied on question language developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tobacco’s toll continues to be devastating in America - killing 400,000 Americans every year and hooking 2,000 additional kids every day. New York’s leaders – especially Mayor Bloomberg – deserve recognition for their tremendous efforts to reduce this toll.

 

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