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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release # 072-06
Thursday, March 9, 2006

Stu Loeser/Virginia Lam (212) 788-2958
Sandra Mullin (DOHMH) (212) 788-5290
Andrew Tucker (DOHMH) (212) 788-5290
Jerry Russo/David Cantor (DOE) (212) 374-5141


MAYOR BLOOMBERG, HEALTH COMMISSIONER FRIEDEN AND SCHOOLS CHANCELLOR KLEIN ANNOUNCE A 36% DECREASE IN SMOKING AMONG HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS SINCE 2001

New Data Shows Increase in Cigarette Tax Correlates with Significant Decrease in Underage Smokers

Decrease Shows 29,000 Fewer High Schools Students ‘Lighting Up’ Since 2001 Since 1997, Teenage Smoking Has Declined by More Than 50%

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, joined by Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, today announced significant declines in smoking among high school students in New York City public schools. The findings – a result of a joint survey conducted by the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and the Department of Education (DOE) – show smoking among high school teenagers has declined 36% (from 18% to 11%) since 2001 and 52% (from 23% to 11%) since 1997. The decrease in teenage smokers correlates with a decline in adult smokers and is attributed to both an increase in the cigarette sales tax, health education and awareness programs and the Smoke Free Air Act. The Mayor announced the new findings at the High School for Art and Design in Manhattan.

“Nine out of ten of our high school students are now non-smokers,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “That’s terrific progress. Teenagers are making better decisions and the decline in the smoking rates proves that our efforts to curb smoking and educate them about their health choices are working. Today, teens are recognizing the true cost of cigarettes. They’re finally getting the message: smoking is dangerous and has real health consequences, not only for them but for those around them. As a result, New York City teens will live longer and healthier lives.”

While education programs have been successful in delivering anti-tobacco messages, increases in cigarette sales taxes have made the largest contribution to the declining number of smokers – in both teenagers and adults. Since the introduction of increased cigarette taxes in July 2002, the number of adult smokers has also declined – by 200,000 from 2002 to 2004.

“High school students often think many of their peers smoke, but the fact is nine out of 10 don’t,” said Commissioner Frieden. “Nearly 80% of adult smokers started smoking as adolescents, and roughly one-third of them will be killed by tobacco unless they quit.”


“While we’ve made excellent progress,” continued Commissioner Frieden, “an estimated 30,000 public high school students in New York City still smoke and nearly two-thirds of them have tried unsuccessfully to quit. The health of New Yorkers is our top priority and increasing the cost of cigarettes, making schools and workplaces smoke-free and helping smokers with their battle to quit are key ways to accomplish that.”

“From better nutrition to avoiding tobacco, our education programs are geared to help our students develop early and lifelong habits for healthy living,” said Chancellor Klein. “We are making school breakfasts and lunches more nutritious and more appealing to students and reemphasizing physical education, fitness and health. All of our curricula, including the Life Skills curriculum in elementary and middle grades, counsel against smoking, as do our anti-drug instructional and guidance programs. And we have smoking cessation programs for high school students who have already begun smoking. It’s a priority for us to continue to maintain and improve the health and well-being of all our students.”

No smoking policies are enforced in and around schools and anti-smoking instruction, intervention and prevention programs often include school and district-wide participation in national smoking prevention and awareness programs such as the Great American Smoke-Out and national “Kick Butts Day” coming up in April. Since 2003, DOE – in partnership with DOHMH – has delivered a health-related fitness program focusing on helping all young people to be cooperative, healthy, active, motivated, positive students (C.H.A.M.P.S.) during childhood and adolescence, and healthy, well-educated, contributing members of society in adulthood. The combination of a renewed focus on physical activity and healthier eating has helped schools to support students and families in achieving this vision.

Key Findings of the Report
  • • The proportion of NYC public high school students who smoke dropped to 11% in 2005, from 23% in 1997 – this represents a decline of 52%. The national rate of youth smoking in 2003, the last year it was measured in a comparable fashion and for which data is available, was 22%.
  • • Youth smoking has decreased more sharply in recent years. Between 2001 and 2005, there was a 36% drop, compared to a 25% decline between 1997 and 2001.
  • • Among all NYC public high school students, 11% tried smoking before the age of 13, down from 16% in 2001.
  • • An estimated 11% of public high school students are current smokers compared to 18% of New York City adults. Between 2002 and 2004, the number of New York adults who smoke declined by 200,000.
  • • Similar decreases occurred in both males and females. About 16,000 females and 14,000 males currently smoke.
  • • Smoking rates decreased in male and female students of all race/ethnicities, with the largest decrease among Hispanic students. Among public high school students, smoking remains most common among white females.
  • • The citywide survey of public high school students showed that 1 in 3 white students smoke, compared with 1 in 10 Hispanic students, and 1 in 15 black students.
  • • Although white female students are most likely to smoke (35%), white males who smoke are more likely to be frequent smokers and much more likely to be heavy smokers.
  • • While half of all students have tried smoking, white students (29%) are more likely than black (7%) or Hispanic (11%) students to smoke.
  • • Youth smoking rates are much higher in Staten Island (23%) than in Queens (13%), Manhattan (11%), the Bronx (10%) and Brooklyn (9%).
  • • Smoking rates are lower in the South Bronx (8%), East & Central Harlem (6%) and North and Central Brooklyn (8%) than they are in the City as a whole.
Report Recommendations

Schools will continue to strictly enforce no-smoking rules and promote anti-smoking messages.

  • • Enforcement of policies and promotion of anti-smoking messages during the school day and during after-school activities is critical for students, teachers and other staff in all grades.
  • • Educators are advised to target anti-tobacco messages to groups with the highest smoking rates, as well as areas with the largest youth smokers.
  • • Schools can help smokers (including students, parents, and staff) to quit.

Parents, schools, business owners and others can seek opportunities to limit youth access to tobacco and reinforce prevention messages.

  • • Parents who smoke can get help to quit; youth with parents who smoke are twice as likely to become smokers themselves.
  • • Parents, teachers, counselors, coaches, other school staff and community members can create opportunities to talk with young people about smoking, and be educated about the impact of adult smoking on youth smoking.
  • • Parents are advised to make their homes smoke-free.
  • • Business owners who do not comply with state and city laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco to youths younger than 18 years of age should be reported to 311.

Health care providers can help their patients to quit smoking.

  • • Health care providers should ask adolescents about tobacco use at every medical visit and provide appropriate interventions.
  • • School-based services should include tobacco screening and cessation treatment.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) is part of a national survey conducted locally by the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and the Department of Education (DOE) in public high schools every two years. This report is available online at http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/survey/survey-2006teensmoking.pdf. For more information on tobacco cessation and how to get help to quit smoking, call 311 or visit nyc.gov/health.



Read the Youth Risk Behavior Report (PDF)
How You Can Quit