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