New York City’s Success in Reducing… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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New York City’s Success in Reducing Smoking Sets Example for the Nation

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free
June 21, 2007

Washington, D.C. — New York City’s dramatic success in reducing smoking, reported in today’s issue of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), sets an example for the nation and shows what can be accomplished when committed leaders aggressively implement proven tobacco prevention measures. We applaud Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden for their leadership in implementing a comprehensive, aggressive tobacco prevention and control program that has resulted in 240,000 fewer smokers since 2002 and already prevented some 80,000 premature deaths.

According to the MMWR report, New York City’s adult smoking rate decreased sharply from 21.6 percent in 2002, when the city launched its comprehensive effort, to 17.5 percent in 2006. Nationally, the adult smoking rate has been declining much more slowly and stood at 20.9 percent in 2005, the last year for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has publicly reported data. New York City’s current smoking rate is the city’s lowest on record. The city has previously reported reducing high school smoking by 52 percent since 1997 to just 11 percent in 2005, compared to a national rate of 23 percent.

New York City has succeeded in dramatically reducing smoking among both youths and adults because it is one of the few places that has implemented the comprehensive approach to reducing tobacco use recommended by public health experts. New York City has a high tax on tobacco products, a strong smoke-free workplace law that covers all workplaces, restaurants and bars, and effective tobacco prevention and cessation programs that prevent kids from starting and help smokers quit. While tobacco taxes and smoke-free laws receive significant attention when they are implemented and have an immediate impact on smoking rates, New York City’s experience provides an important reminder that continued reductions in smoking require a sustained investment in prevention and cessation programs, including hard-hitting advertising campaigns.

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 $96 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. Elected leaders across the nation should follow New York City’s lead in implementing a comprehensive, proven approach to reducing tobacco use that includes higher tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free workplace laws and well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs.