Bloomberg announces smoking in city at all-time low
by Heather Senison
Sep 20, 2011 | 413 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The number of cigarette-smoking New Yorkers dropped by 35 percent between 2002 and 2010, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on Thursday, September 15.

Life expectancy in the city rose by a year and a half since 2001, making it higher than the country as a whole, he said in a press conference on the 14th floor of the Health Department building in Long Island City.

"So if you have friends who live elsewhere in the country," the mayor joked, "you care about them, and they care about their lives and want to live longer, you know how to do it: get them to move here."

Bloomberg was joined by Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Councilwoman Gale Brewer.

"Smoking is a leading cause in preventable, premature death in our city," Bloomberg said, citing heart disease and cancer as the main killers.

But his office's aggressive campaign to convince smokers to quit appears to be working, he said, as the percentage dropped most recently by 11 percent between 2009 and 2010.

The campaign includes banning smoking in parks and beaches, making resources more available for those trying to quit, raising cigarette taxes and the cost of packs by more than 50 percent since 2002, along with "hard-hitting media campaigns that graphically show the dire consequences of smoking," he said.

However, he said "it's the public that has really made the difference."

There are currently 450,000 less smokers in the city than there were in 2002, and 100,000 less than there were in 2009, Bloomberg said. Reducing the number of smokers saves the lives of roughly 1,500 New Yorkers per year, he said, stressing that secondhand smoke is also a severe danger.

In addition, the number of teenagers in the city who smoke dropped from 19 to 7 percent between 2002 and 2010.

"Youth across the country watch New York and they want to be, if not be New Yorkers, they want to be like New Yorkers," Bloomerg said, "so the fact that we made all this progress here really will help the entire country."

He said teenagers who don't smoke are less likely to pick up the habit as adults.

However, a reduction in smoking is not the only factor making New York City healthier, Bloomberg mentioned people consuming less calories and exercising more as other contributors.

Brewer, who introduced the legislation that banned smoking in parks and beaches, said she hardly sees any smokers at the beach anymore.

"And I feel that those who do sneak one feel a little guilty," she said.

Bloomberg added that city residents regulate each other, and some will scold people they see smoking in the parks.

Beatrice Rosa-Swerbilov, of Manhattan, who spoke at the conference about her experiences as a smoker, said she started smoking when she was 15.

However, as smoking became more of a taboo in the last decade, "I became a closet smoker, I was hiding it from my kids," she said.

Eventually her son Nicholas, 11 years old at the time, drew her a picture, she said, of a dead stick figure with a cigarette in its mouth and and another stick figure crying, with a message asking her to quit.

Swerbilov said she is the primary caregiver for her sick and paralyzed father, which she said also motivated her to quit.

"I have to be around for a lot of people," she said "not just my children, but for my parents. So I had to quit smoking for them, because if I'm not around they don't have anyone else."

Swerbilov quit smoking a year and a half ago, "and this is the only time you'll hear me say that 'I'm happy to be a quitter," she said.
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