Washington, D.C. / New York, NY - New York City smoking rates have gone up among adults, again, according to newly-released government numbers.
"This failure in public policy provides the most striking and objective evidence to date showing that Mayor Bloomberg's aggressive anti-smoking campaign has been ineffective," said Manhattan-based Jeff Stier, senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.
The Wall Street Journal reports today that this is "the third straight year that tobacco use has crept up in a metropolis once known for its innovations in getting people to kick the habit, according to government data released Monday."
The article, by reporter Mara Gay, further says, "City officials and public-health workers blamed a steady drop in funding for anti-tobacco programs for the highest rate of smoking since 2007."
"Actually, I'd beg to differ," says Stier. "Since 2007, New York City has had some of the most aggressive anti-smoking campaigns anywhere. The city has some of the highest tax rates in the nation, the most restrictions on tobacco displays, and regularly advertises and gives away nicotine gum or patches at taxpayer expense. And New York City spends like a drunken sailor on anti-smoking ads."
Stier argues that it's not that the city wasn't spending enough money or that the laws weren't restrictive enough. Rather, he says, "while Mayor Bloomberg was busy punishing smokers and squandering taxpayer money, the city was among the first to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places. Yet the emergence of e-cigarettes are perhaps the most promising developments that could help people quit," says Stier. "But instead of supporting their use to help people quit smoking, the New York City public health establishment spends resources demonizing e-cigarettes and making them less appealing to potential 'switchers.'"
"That is the third straight year smoking rates have increased in New York City, according to the government's own numbers. This is a big defeat to Mayor Bloomberg on one of his signature issues," Stier says.
"I, for one, am not surprised that the nanny-state approach was ineffective in New York City," said Stier. "Public health officials should learn a lesson: Put your hands back in your pockets, stop asking for more money and more tax increases for your ineffective policies, and instead show some humility given the new findings."
Stier says the public health community in New York City and beyond should take heed of the latest numbers and embrace private-sector driven solutions such as e-cigarettes.
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