From The BMJ
New York's war on tobacco produces record fall in smoking
A large increase in the tax on cigarettes and a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants are being credited with contributing to an 11% decline in the number of adult smokers in New York city from 2002 to 2003—one of the steepest short term declines ever measured, according to surveys commissioned by the city.
The surveys show that the number of regular smokers, after holding steady for a decade, dropped by more than 100 000 over the period. It is estimated that 19.3% of adults in New York now smoke, down from 21.6%. The decline occurred across all boroughs, ages, and ethnic groups.
The surveys also found a 13% decline in cigarette consumption, indicating that smokers who did not quit were smoking less. The surveys counted as smokers all people who said they had smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lives and now smoked every day or on "some days."
City health officials and opponents of smoking said they believed the decline was caused mainly by sharply higher tobacco taxes that went into effect in 2002, including an increase in the city's portion of the tax from eight cents (£0.04; 0.07) a pack to $1.50 a pack. The decline also coincided with a new city law banning smoking in bars, a new state law prohibiting it in restaurants and bars, and a citywide antismoking campaign, which has included distribution of free nicotine patches.
"From what we've seen, we believe New York city experienced the steepest decline anywhere in one year," said Dr Thomas Frieden, the city's health commissioner.
Before New York city's smoking ban and increase in tobacco tax, 21.6% of residents smoked. Now 19.3% do so
Credit: STEPHEN CHERNIN/GETTY IMAGES
The nicotine patch programme, a one-time giveaway by the city of six week supplies of nicotine patches to 35 000 New Yorkers last year, was notably successful, according to a report released by the New York Department of Health last month. Eleven thousand of the participants are now ex-smokers. "The results far exceeded our expectations," Dr Frieden said.
However, another recent report found that a third of smokers in New York are avoiding paying the $1.50 cigarette tax, leading the city's health commissioner to warn that smuggled cigarettes were "the single biggest threat" to the city's tough antismoking law.
Cigarette sales in the five boroughs collapsed after the city increased its portion of the tax on 2 July 2002. In the next 12 months 182 million packs were sold, compared with 342 million in the previous 12 months.
Sandra Mullin, a health department spokeswoman, said two thirds of smokers who responded to a recent survey said they are buying their cigarettes legally. "Others are purchasing cigarettes from sources such as Indian reservations, through the internet, outside the US, from other states, [and] through the mail," she said.