New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, marked the tenth anniversary of his
ban on smoking in bars and restaurants with a report saying the ban and
subsequent anti-smoking measures had prevented 10 000 premature deaths.
"Ten years ago when New York City prohibited smoking in restaurants and bars,
many predicted the end of the hospitality, restaurant and tourism industries,"
Bloomberg said in a statement.
"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
Critics of the move feared banning smoking would hurt the restaurant and bar
business, but the Health Department report said there are now some 6 000 more
restaurants and bars in the city than there were a decade ago.
The city's Smoke-Free Air Act came into effect a little over a year into
Bloomberg's first term as mayor in 2003 and prohibited smoking inside bars,
restaurants and most workplaces.
The following year, the city began providing free nicotine replacement
therapy to smokers trying to quit and in 2011 expanded the smoking ban to the
city's parks and beaches.
According to the report released on Wednesday, the proportion of adult
smokers dropped by about a third to 15% in 2011 from 21.5% in 2002. The report,
released by the city's Health Department, also said the proportion of youths
under age 18 who smoke dropped by about half to 8.5%.
Bloomberg wants improved life
Bloomberg's tenure, which will end this year, has been marked by his efforts
to improve New Yorkers' health by trying to induce them to eat less salt, trans
fats and calories in general, among other measures.
Bloomberg has been criticised by some as paternalistic but his efforts have
coincided with an increase in New Yorkers' life expectancy, including a decline
in tobacco-related deaths.
Bloomberg's attempt to limit the size of sugary drinks sold in the city was
derailed this month only hours before the new rules were to take effect when a
judge ruled that they were "arbitrary and capricious". The city is appealing
A week later, Bloomberg announced his plan to require shops to hide
cigarettes and tobacco products from public view, arguing that would shield
young people from marketing efforts.
Some shop owners and cigarette manufacturers have criticised the plan as
unnecessary extra regulation that would infringe the free speech provision of
the US Constitution.
Bloomberg also proposed a minimum price of $10.50 for a pack of cigarettes,
in the hope that some smokers would find the habit too expensive to maintain.
The two bills are now before the city council.
Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of premature death in the city,
according to the Health Department.
Ronald Beyer, a professor of public health at Columbia University, called
Bloomberg's health initiatives a "major achievement" and said his efforts to
make smoking less socially acceptable were an effective and legitimate use of
He said it remains an open question how much further government could go to
discourage smokers to quit.