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Press Release

Press Release # 015-08
Wednesday, February 27, 2008

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Most Recent Data Show 300,000 New York City Children May Be Exposed to Cigarette Smoke at Home, One in Four Children With Asthma Live With an Adult Smoker

NEW YORK CITY - February 27, 2008 - The New York City Health Department this week began airing a new television ad to educate New Yorkers about the harmful effects of secondhand smoke on children. A Health Department survey suggests that approximately 300,000 children may be exposed to cigarette smoke at home. The Health Department has run numerous hard-hitting anti-tobacco ads in recent years; however, this one was created specifically to warn New Yorkers about how secondhand smoke damages children's health. The ad, an original production that has never aired before, can be viewed here.

Every year, secondhand smoke contributes to more than 750,000 ear infections and 200,000 cases of asthma among U.S. children. As the new ad's graphic images remind viewers, secondhand smoke makes children more susceptible to pneumonia, and it contributes to lifelong health conditions such as asthma.

A new Health Department report, "Childhood Asthma in New York City," finds that nearly one in 10 New York City children (9 percent) have current asthma, meaning they have experienced an asthma attack within the past year. The city's current asthma level is almost twice that seen among children nationally (5 percent) - and one in four New York City children with current asthma live with an adult who smokes. Asthma is most prevalent among children living in black (10 percent), Hispanic (12 percent) and low-income households (12 percent). For more information on this report click here(PDF).

Besides contributing to asthma, secondhand smoke increases the likelihood of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in newborns. Children whose parents smoke are twice as likely to become smokers themselves.  The Health Department's new TV ad airs in conjunction with a previously-aired one that uses similar graphic techniques to show how cigarettes affect a smoker's lungs, mouth, teeth and brain. Its tagline: "Cigarettes are eating you alive."

Although many New Yorkers have made their homes smoke-free, a new analysis of the Health Department's Community Health Survey suggests that about one in 6 New York City children are still at risk for exposure to the 4,000 toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke - including cyanide, carbon monoxide and benzene.

"When parents smoke, they put their child's health in danger," said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Health Commissioner for New York City. "If a child who lives with a smoker has an asthma attack or gets an ear infection, secondhand smoke may well have played a part. If you are a parent who smokes, quit now to protect your children. If you can't quit yet, make your home smoke-free today."

New York City's smoking rate has plummeted since the Bloomberg administration launched a comprehensive program against smoking in 2002. In 2006, the adult smoking rate was 17.5 percent - nearly 20 percent lower than the 2002 rate - a decline that represents 240,000 fewer smokers. Anti-tobacco advertising has played a significant role in this decline, prompting increased demand for smoking-cessation services and driving down smoking rates, particularly among men and Hispanic New Yorkers since 2005.

Make Your Home Smoke-Free

Making your home smoke-free is the only way to fully protect your loved ones from the dangers of secondhand smoke. Smoking in another room, opening a window, or using an air filter does not protect non-smokers. When you make your home smoke-free, the rule needs to cover everyone - family members, caregivers and friends. Almost 70 percent of New Yorkers - including nearly 40 percent of smokers, have already set rules to make their homes smoke-free. The remaining 30 percent of New Yorkers - almost 2 million households - still lack a smoke-free home rule. Studies suggest that smokers who live in smoke-free homes are more likely to try to quit, and more likely to succeed.

In October, the Health Department launched a yearlong smoke-free-home initiative in East and Central Harlem, where children are hospitalized for asthma at twice the rate of children citywide. The initiative included a print media campaign, subway and radio ads, and continuing partnerships with local organizations to conduct community workshops and provide cessation services, including distribution of nicotine patches at local clinics.

Help to Quit

If you smoke, try to quit. If you can't do it alone, use nicotine patches. They can double your chance of quitting successfully. New Yorkers who want to quit smoking to protect themselves and others can call 311 for help.