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Press Release

Press Release # 014-12
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

MEDIA CONTACT: (347) 396-4177
Sam Miller/Alexandra Waldhorn:


Study finds fewer smokers in parks and fewer cigarette butts on beaches and playgrounds

The Health Department announced today that, one year after a ban on smoking in parks and beaches took effect, smoking in select City parks declined by two-thirds between the fall of 2010 and the fall of 2011. The Department also found that smoking-related litter on beaches declined by about two-thirds between the summer of 2010 and 2011, and there was a significant decrease in smoking litter on playgrounds, where smoking has been banned since 2002. The results are based on an observational study conducted by DOHMH.

“Smoking is still the leading preventable cause of death in New York City, and people can be exposed to significant levels of second-hand smoke even outdoors,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “A year since the implementation of the City’s smoking ban in parks and beaches these beautiful public spaces are cleaner and safer for everyone.”

Starting next week, the Department will run ads reminding New Yorkers that their parks and beaches are smoke-free.

The smoking surveys were conducted October of 2010 and October of 2011, during lunch hours on weekdays and in the early afternoon on weekends, in 13 parks in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including large “flagship” parks like Central Park and smaller neighborhood parks like Tompkins Square. Pairs of Health Department staff walked in set routes and recorded the number of people they observed smoking. In October 2010, the surveyors observed 108 people smoking, but a year later they documented only 35 people smoking.

The Health Department also conducted litter surveys in select parks and beaches in July 2010 and early May 2011 and again after the implementation of the ban in August 2011. During this time, the number of cigarette butts left in vast sections of the City’s beaches was down two-thirds from the previous year, from an average of 265 pieces of cigarette litter per acre to 100 pieces after the ban was in place.

Smoking is the leading cause of premature preventable death in NYC, killing more than 7,000 New Yorkers annually. From 2002-2010, the adult smoking rate in NYC has declined 35%, from 22% to 14%, which translates to 450,000 fewer New Yorkers who smoke, a decrease which could prevent up to 149,000 premature deaths in the future.

Quitting smoking is the most important thing one can do to improve health, and smokers can receive help by calling 311 or 1-866-NY-QUITS, or visiting and searching “NYCQuits”.