09 | 16 | 2015

New NYC Smoking Data Should Be Wake Up Call for Policy Makers

New NYC Smoking Data Should Be Wake Up Call for Policy Makers

Public Health Groups Call for Renewed Effort to Combat High Disparate Use of Tobacco Across City

(NEW YORK, NY) Today, leading public health groups reacted to the release of new data which shows that while overall smoking rates in New York City have decreased, significant disparities in smoking rates continue to exist.  The data reveal disparities based on which borough people live in, the educational level they have attained, their income level and even their gender. The groups reiterated that New York City must redouble efforts to implement proven strategies to reduce overall smoking rates and rates within hard-to-reach populations, including well-funded state and local tobacco control programs, hard hitting media campaigns and higher prices on tobacco products.  All of these elements work together to create the comprehensive tobacco control policy needed to drive down smoking rates in all groups and save lives.

“The disparities we’re seeing in the smoking rates among various groups in New York City show that it’s time for our decisionmakers to go back to the basics,” said Jeff Seyler, President  & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast, “We need to increase funding to the City and State’s tobacco control programs.  By increasing resources we can target interventions that will finally combat the disparities that remain in New York.  No New Yorker should be denied the resources needed to quit smoking for good.”

According to the data released by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the new citywide smoking rate is 13.9 percent.  This represents a 35 percent decline in smoking from the 2002 prevalence when comprehensive tobacco control was put in place. Nevertheless smoking rates within the city’s five boroughs range from a low of under 13 percent in Queens and Manhattan to a high of over 16 percent in Staten Island and the Bronx. Smoking rates among those who did not graduate from high school are over 17 percent while rates among college graduates are less than 8 percent. As observed in the past, smoking rates tend to be higher at lower income levels.  And smoking rates among men in New York City stand at 18 percent while rates among women are 10 percent. 

“Any reduction in NYC’s smoking rate is good news and a reminder that comprehensive tobacco control works. However the tobacco epidemic is far from over and tobacco-related health disparities still affect many New Yorkers, especially those with limited income or education,” said Patrick Kwan, Director of NYC Smoke-Free at Public Health Solutions.

“New York City has so often led the nation in the battle against tobacco,” stated Yuki Courtland, Chair of the American Heart Association’s Advocacy Committee in New York City.  “The American Heart Association is pleased that we are heading in the right direction with overall smoking rates beginning to drop, yet there are significant portions of New York City’s population where this decrease is not being witnessed at the same level.  This results in persistent health disparities where tobacco-related diseases – like stroke and heart disease – will have a greater burden on certain New Yorkers.  It shouldn’t matter what your income is, or if you graduated high school.  Our city must invest in the necessary resources to help every New Yorker quit their tobacco addiction.”

“New York City continues to be a champion in reducing youth and adult smoking and ultimately saving tens of thousands of lives through evidence-based strategies,” said Michael Davoli, Director of New York Metro government relations of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. These proven strategies have resulted in the historic drop in smoking rates citywide that has been announced today. While this progress is to be applauded, it is also a reminder that nearly 900,000 adult New York City residents and over 2.4 million New Yorkers statewide continue to smoke and we must not let up in our efforts to help people quit and prevent youth from becoming addicted in the first place.”

“New York City’s continuing progress shows that the battle against tobacco is entirely winnable.  It also demonstrates how much remains to be done when nearly 14 percent of adults still smoke and smoking rates are even higher in certain communities and populations,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “New York City has led the nation in implementing proven strategies to reduce tobacco use, including higher tobacco taxes, effective tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and strong smoke-free laws. To keep making progress, both the city and state of New York must redouble their efforts, especially by increasing funding for programs to help smokers quit and prevent kids from starting in the first place.”



Kathleen O’Neill, American Lung Association, 518.545.5045, koneill@LungNE.org
Mark Hurley, American Heart Association, 212-878-5932, mark.hurley@heart.org
Marc Kaplan, American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network, 518.796,1038, Marc.Kaplan@cancer.org  
John Schachter, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, (202) 296 5469,  jschachter@tobaccofreekids.org
Patrick Kwan, NYC Smoke-Free, (917) 309-9188, pkwan@healthsolutions.org