Mayor Bloomberg Sets the Bar in Reducing Tobacco Use; Nation Should Follow New York City's Lead

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jun. 14 2006

Washington, DC — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's keynote speech today at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) serves as a timely reminder of what can be accomplished when committed leaders aggressively implement proven tobacco prevention measures. Under Mayor Bloomberg's leadership, New York City has dramatically reduced smoking among both kids and adults. These smoking declines will improve New Yorkers' physical and financial health for generations to come by reducing smoking-caused disease, death and health care costs. New York City has implemented the equivalent of a vaccine that is working to protect New Yorkers from the devastating toll of tobacco; it's time for the rest of the nation to follow suit.

New York City has succeeded in dramatically reducing smoking among both youth and adults because it is one of the few places that have implemented the three most effective policies to reduce smoking recommended by public health experts. New York City has a high tax on tobacco products, a strong smoke-free workplace law that includes restaurants and bars, and effective tobacco prevention and cessation programs that prevent kids from ever starting and help smokers quit.

As Mayor Bloomberg noted, today nearly 200,000 fewer New Yorkers smoke than did four years ago, preventing at least 60,000 premature deaths. New York City has reduced high school smoking by 52 percent since 1997 to just 11 percent in 2005, which is less than half the national high school smoking rate of 23 percent. Mayor Bloomberg is absolutely right that "replication of these initiatives, nationally and internationally - perhaps accelerated by New York City's example - very likely will have a lifesaving impact many times greater" than what New York City has already achieved.

Mayor Bloomberg spoke before the nation's top public health leaders and public officials at the CDC's annual Public's Health and the Law in the 21st Century Conference in Atlanta.

New York City's leadership in passing a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law - and its conclusive demonstration to the world that such laws protect health without harming business - has fueled a growing momentum across the nation and the world to protect everyone's right to breathe clean air, free from the proven dangers of secondhand smoke. Fourteen states as well as Washington, DC and Puerto Rico have passed strong smoke-free workplace laws that include restaurants and bars. Hundreds of cities and counties across the United States have also taken action, as have whole countries including Ireland, England, Scotland, Uruguay, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, Italy, Bhutan and Bermuda.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing the nation more than $89 billion in health care bills each year. New York City's success demonstrates more clearly than ever that we know how to reduce tobacco use and its devastating consequences and just need the political will to act. We challenge elected leaders across the nation to follow New York City's lead and vaccinate everyone against tobacco's terrible toll.

 

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