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PR- 192-08
May 20, 2008


City's 16.9 Percent Smoking Rate Represents 300,000 Fewer Smokers Than in 2002 - a Decrease That Will Prevent 100,000 Premature Deaths

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, and New York City Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden announced today that after years in which the smoking rate drastically declined in only four of the five boroughs in New York City, Staten Island residents began to follow suit in 2007, where the high smoking rate fell by 25 percent - or 22,000 people according to the annual Community Health Survey.  Smoking has continued to decline overall in New York since 2002 and is now at the lowest rate in more than 50 years. Joining the Mayor, Speaker and Commissioner Frieden were Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, members of the Staten Island City Council Delegation, NYC Coalition for a Smoke Free City Director Joanne Koldare, and Center for a Tobacco Free New York Director Russ Sciandra, along with representatives of the American Cancer Society.

"Staten Islanders aren't just yearning to breathe free - they're doing it," said Mayor Bloomberg. "This finding reminds us never to settle for the status quo. It shows us that more and more smokers continue to quit. And it proves once again that when you take bold action in public health, you get results. A city with 300,000 fewer smokers is one where 100,000 fewer people will die prematurely from smoking-related diseases."

"Educating New Yorkers about the harmful effects of smoking and making cessation programs available has been an important City effort, and one that I am deeply committed to," said Speaker Quinn. "For many years, the City Council has worked to educate smokers and help them quit smoking. Today's announcement clearly shows the positive product of the City's work. I thank Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Frieden on all they have done to bring the dire consequences of smoking to light, and literally save lives. Staten Islanders, with one of the city's highest smoking rates, has heard this message and took it seriously."

"If you smoke, quitting is by far the most important thing you can do to improve your health," said Commissioner Frieden. "Most people who've ever smoked have already quit, and most people who still smoke want to quit. If you smoke, quit today. If you need help, just call 311."

"As a former smoker, I can attest to the enhanced quality of life that comes from quitting," said Borough President Molinaro. "I encourage all Staten Islanders to take a proactive interest in their health and quit smoking immediately."

Some 20.4 percent of adults still smoke on Staten Island, compared to 16.9 percent citywide. No other borough achieved such a dramatic reduction in 2007. Staten Island's adult smoking rate plummeted from 27.2 percent in 2006 to 20.4 percent in 2007, and was especially pronounced among Staten Island men, whose rate fell from 29.3 percent in 2006 to 19.9 percent in 2007. The Health Department's new findings show that this is the first time that there has been such a sharp decline among smokers on Staten Island. Citywide, the number of smokers has fallen by 300,000 in five years.

While Staten Island's smoking decline is recent, the other boroughs have also shown a decline since 2002. Smoking rates in the other boroughs are 18.2 percent in the Bronx, 17 percent in Brooklyn, 16.4 percent in Manhattan, and 16 percent in Queens. Roughly 1 million New Yorkers still smoke, but this is a decrease of 300,000 since 2002, and the number continues to dwindle.

To help New Yorkers quit, the Bloomberg Administration has supported a tobacco tax increase, enacted a clean indoor air law, launched hard-hitting anti-smoking ad campaigns, and provided hundreds of thousands of people with free courses of nicotine-replacement therapy. Last month, nearly 30,000 city residents called 311 to get free nicotine patches and gum during a two-week giveaway. To support the effort, the Health Department developed and aired an ad campaign featuring Marie, a Bronx woman who recounted the multiple amputations she suffered because of a smoking-related illness.

The Health Department has recently focused intently on Staten Island's tobacco problem. Besides airing anti-smoking ad campaigns - some tailored specifically to Staten Island - the agency has worked with Staten Island elected officials and organizations, including the NYC Coalition for a Smoke Free City, to bring attention to the issue. It has also sponsored targeted interventions, including patch giveaways and outreach to local health care providers, and supported research into why Staten Islanders smoke at rates higher than people in other boroughs.

Help to Quit

If you smoke, quitting is the most important thing you can do for your health. New Yorkers who want to give up smoking can call 311 for help.

Five Tips to Make Quitting Easier

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

About the Data

The new findings are drawn from the 2007 Community Health Survey, a telephone survey of approximately 10,000 New York City adults (18 years or older). The survey is conducted annually for the Health Department by an independent contractor using nationally standardized methods.


Stu Loeser/Dawn Walker   (212) 788-2958

Jessica Scaperotti/Sara Markt   (Health Department)
(212) 788-5290

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