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Smoking rate among New Yorkers at all-time low

Claire Hughe, Times Union POPULATION OF NEW YORK IN 2014 WAS 8.491 MILLION

Smoking rates are the lowest ever recorded among New Yorkers, state officials announced Monday.

In the last four years, the smoking rate among high school students has dropped 42 percent to 7.3 percent. The adult smoking rate has dropped to 14.5 percent, below the national average of 17.8 percent.

State officials attributed the decline to efforts including its Tobacco Control Program and the Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan.

A strong Clean Indoor Air Act, which prohibits smoking in restaurants and other workplaces, and high cigarette taxes have also contributed, said Harlan Juster, director of the state Health Department’s Bureau of Tobacco Control.

Those results were achieved despite declining funding for state-led tobacco control efforts. The state spent US$84 million on the program in 2008-09 (HK$ 655 MILLION) , but just US$39.3 million (HK$ 306.54 MILLION) in 2012-13, when funding leveled off.

“Our charge is to do the best with what we’re given,” Juster said, adding that the results show the state’s success in funding successful efforts.

Judy Rightmyer, director of the Capital District Tobacco Free Coalition, which receives some state funding, applauded health officials’ efforts.

Smoking rates remain stubbornly high among certain populations, including New Yorkers with mental illness, low incomes and lower levels of education, Juster and Rightmyer said. New York is one of only five states to receive $1 million in federal funding to work with medical practitioners to address smoking rates among patients who are poor or mentally ill, or have lower levels of education.

Going forward, state health officials also want to reduce cigarette marketing in low-income neighborhoods, Juster said. Efforts may include encouraging local policies to reduce the number of cigarette retailers in low-income neighborhoods, for instance.

The state has received a US$9.29 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fund ongoing efforts to encourage smokers to quit.

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