NYC says smoking deaths drop 17 percent in eight years

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Smoking-related deaths in New York dropped 17 percent in the past eight years and the number of smokers has fallen by nearly a third, according to the city’s health department.

It said the number of people dying from smoking-related illnesses has fallen to about 7,200 in 2009 from 8,700 in 2002, coinciding with a tough anti-smoking campaign by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg banned smoking in bars and restaurants in 2003 and he recently proposed expanding that ban to parks, beaches, boardwalks, pedestrian plazas and other outdoor public spaces.

“We have reduced the number of adult smokers by 350,000 and prevented thousands of premature deaths,” New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said in a statement.

“This is good news, but smoking still kills more than 7,000 New Yorkers each year, and thousands more will suffer smoking-induced strokes, heart attacks, debilitating lung diseases and cancers,” he said.

The city has also given out free nicotine patches and gum to 250,000 New Yorkers since 2003, helping 80,000 smokers quit, the department said. Graphic advertisements depicting damage to the body by smoking also convinced people to quit, it added.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Patricia Reaney