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Press Release

Press Release # 023-09
Tuesday, May 5, 2009

CONTACT: 212-788-5290
Jessica Scaperotti/Michelle Park:

New York City Smoking Rates Fall to Lowest Rate on Record

Less than 72 Hours Left to Get Free Nicotine Patches and Gum at No Cost from 311

350,000 Fewer Adult Smokers than 7 years ago

I got the patchMay 5, 2009 – New York City has reached its lowest rate of smoking on record (15.8%), with less than 1 million adult smokers in the City – 350,000 fewer than in 2002 — the Health Department announced today. With less than 72 hours left in New York City’s annual Nicotine Patch and Gum Program, New Yorkers who want to quit should act fast. The Nicotine Patch and Gum Program provides New Yorkers with nicotine replacement therapy at no-cost. Last year’s program prompted 30,000 New Yorkers to call 311 for help quitting smoking. The Nicotine Patch and Gum Program ends this Thursday, May 7.

The Nicotine Patch and Gum Program and its iconic spokespeople – Ronaldo Martinez and Marie from the Bronx – have helped thousands of New Yorkers kick the habit in recent years. The city’s adult smoking rate has plummeted since 2002, from 21.5% in 2002 to 15.8% in 2008, a decline that could prevent more than 115,000 premature deaths in future years. Among smokers, the proportion of heavy daily smokers (11 or more cigarettes per day) has fallen from 36.4% to 28.7% since 2002. 

“Most New Yorkers who have ever smoked have already quit, and today New York City has 350,000 fewer adult smokers than in 2002,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner. “Cigarettes still kill more than 7,000 New Yorkers every year and harm thousands more.  Now is the time to quit smoking. With nicotine patches and gum available through May 7, I encourage all smokers to call 311 today.”

This year’s Nicotine Patch and Gum Program includes an interactive Facebook page,, with more than 1,600 fans. Anyone can help a friend or family member quit by visiting the Facebook page or the Health Department’s website ( and sending a friendly electronic reminder – an e-patch that urges the recipient to call 311 for nicotine replacement therapy. By visiting the Facebook page, smokers and former smokers can also share stories and tips on quitting smoking.

Quitting can be tough, but nicotine patches and gum can double your chances of success. Here are some tips to make quitting smoking easier:

  • Prepare yourself. Make a list of your reasons for quitting and plan for situations that may tempt you to smoke.
  • Pick a quit date. Get rid of ashtrays and lighters, and all cigarettes.
  • Make your home and car smoke-free. It is healthier for others and will help you resist smoking.
  • Get support and encouragement. Tell your family, friends, and co-workers that you are quitting and ask for their support.
  • Get a quit buddy. Ask a smoker to quit with you, or find someone who has already quit who you can talk to for support.

More information on quitting smoking is available at