Survey: Fewer city teens lighting up
No butts about it: City public high school kids aren't smoking as much as they once did.
Smoking among city teens has plummeted by more than 50 percent during the past decade, part of a national trend that placed cigarette sales at their lowest level since 1951.
"That's terrific progress," Mayor Bloomberg said at a news conference Thursday announcing the decline.
Still, one in 10 city high school teens smoke, according to the Department of Health survey. The figures also showed that more girls than boys light up, and that the highest concentration of teen smokers is on Staten Island, where 23% of them smoke. The healthiest young lungs are across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Brooklyn, where just 9% of teens light up.
Since 1997, overall city teen smoking levels dropped from 23% to 11%. But Bloomberg said he won't butt out of high schoolers lives. His goal is to get the number of teen smokers to zero.
"One of the real problems is that we try to glorify smoking. Too many movies show somebody looking cool. It isn't cool," the mayor said.
"I'll be happy to take you to a cancer hospital and just talk to somebody who knows they're dying and they're never going to see their family ever again."
Cool or not, smoking is getting expensive for teenagers with the average pack now around $7.
"By increasing the tobacco tax significantly, a cigarette addiction has become unaffordable for many high school students," said Corri Freedman of the American Lung Association of the City of New York.
Nationwide cigarette sales declined 21% since 1998, when a deal between tobacco companies and states severely curtailed marketing.
About 378 billion cigarette "sticks" were sold in 2005, the lowest number since 1951, according to federal statistics. An estimated 400,000 Americans, 25,500 in New York state, die each year from smoking-related illnesses -- the largest preventable cause of death.
The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, however, said New York is spending too little of its yearly $1.7 billion in tobacco generated revenue on anti-smoking prevention. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the state spend at least $96 million a year, but in fiscal year 2006 Albany budgeted $43 million.
New York City Teen Smoking Stats
Youth Smoking by Borough
Staten Island: 23%
Youth Smoking by Race (percent that "tried" cigarettes)