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PR- 114-13
March 27, 2013


City’s Smoking Rates at Record Lows, Life Expectancy at Record High and Restaurants Thriving

Following New York City’s Lead, More than 500 U.S. Municipalities and 49 Countries Have Passed Smoke-Free Laws Since 2003, Impacting More than 1.5 Billion People

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Linda I. Gibbs and Health Commissioner Thomas Farley today celebrated the 10th anniversary of New York City’s Smoke-Free Air Act by releasing a report highlighting the legislation’s local, national and global impact. Since New York City passed this landmark legislation, an estimated 10,000 premature smoking-related deaths have been prevented among New Yorkers; more than 500 U.S. municipalities and 35 states have adopted smoke-free air laws, protecting more than 250 million Americans; and 49 countries passed smoke-free air legislation, impacting more than 1.2 billion people. In New York City, the smoking rate among adults decreased from 21.5 in 2002 to 14.8 percent in 2011 and from 17.5 to 8.5 percent among youth. Over the same time period, life expectancy has reached an all-time high of 80.9 years and employment in the City’s bars and restaurants has increased by 48 percent. The Mayor made the announcement at the Old Town Bar, where he was joined by owner Gerard Meagher who originally opposed the Smoke-Free Air Act. 

“Ten years ago when New York City prohibited smoking in restaurants and bars, many predicted the end of the hospitality, restaurant and tourism industries,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Yet ten years later, fewer New Yorkers are smoking, we are living longer, our industries are thriving and nobody longs for a return to smoke-filled bars and restaurants. New York City’s public health innovations have been, and will continue to be, a model for the rest of the world.”

“New York City continues to be at the forefront of the global fight against the epidemic of tobacco-related illness,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “Ten years ago we passed this legislation to protect workers against the dangers of secondhand smoke without harming business, and it resulted in fewer people smoking and smokers smoking less. The Smoke-Free Air Act made New York one of the healthiest and safest places in the world to live and work.”

“The Smoke-Free Air Act has not only saved thousands of lives, it has fundamentally changed the way New Yorkers view smoking,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “This single law has protected workers, but more important, it has made smoking socially unacceptable. Hundreds of thousands of smokers have quit, and the rest are smoking fewer cigarettes per day. And no one wants to bring back second-hand smoke in restaurants and bars.”

“We are impressed and grateful to the Mayor and Department of Health for protecting the health and lives of so many New Yorkers,” said Department of Finance Commissioner David Frankel. “At the same time, taxable sales at bars and restaurants are at an all-time high. Finance will continue to do its part to enforce the tax laws, making smoking more expensive and less attractive while protecting legitimate businesses in the process.”

Since passage and implementation of the Smoke-Free Air Act in March 2003, New York City has continued to expand smoke-free spaces. In July 2009, the Smoke-Free Air act was expanded to prohibit smoking within 15 feet of entrances, exits and grounds of New York City’s hospitals. In May 2011, New York City expanded smoke-free air to its parks and beaches.  The law prohibits smoking in City parks, beaches, boardwalks, public golf courses, sports stadiums and pedestrian plazas. 

Despite significant progress in reducing smoking rates, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable, premature death in New York City, killing more than 7,000 people a year. To build on the administration’s success, Mayor Bloomberg asked the City Council to introduce two bills earlier this month. One bill would combat youth smoking by making New York City the first place in the country to require retailers to restrict the display of tobacco products. The second bill would take several steps to increase enforcement against the sale of untaxed cigarettes and prevent the tobacco industry from using discounts and coupons to undercut New York City’s high tobacco prices, which are crucial to lowering the smoking rate.

Major smoking reduction initiatives since 2002:

  • 2002: Tobacco Control becomes a public health priority for the administration, which introduces a comprehensive plan that addresses legislation, taxation, cessation, education and evaluating the impact of interventions.
  • 2002: Smoke-Free Air Act is introduced by City Council; State and City cigarette tax increases go into effect, making New York City's cigarette pack the most expensive in the nation.
  • 2003: Smoke-Free Air Act goes into effect - all NYC bars and restaurants are smoke-free.
  • 2004: City begins distributing nicotine replacement therapy to New Yorkers who want to quit though giveaways.
  • 2006 - present: Smoking cessation is promoted through hard-hitting media campaigns.
  • 2009: Smoke-Free Air Act expanded to prohibit smoking on or around grounds and entrances of health care facilities; Graphic health warning signs are required in all tobacco retailers (later overturned by court ruling); flavored tobacco products (non-cigarette) are prohibited.
  • 2011: Smoking prohibited in parks, beaches, and pedestrian plazas.
  • 2013:  Legislation introduced to prohibit the display of tobacco products and decrease access to cheap and illegal cigarettes.

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Marc La Vorgna / Samantha Levine   (212) 788-2958

Sam Miller (Health)   (347) 396-4177


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