New York cigarette ban sees smoking fall out of favour

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The Independent US

When New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned smoking in all restaurants, bars and clubs early last year, critics called it unworkable and draconian. Health advocates celebrated and they had new cause for celebration yesterday when figures showed an 11 per cent decline in the numbers of smokers in the city.

When New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned smoking in all restaurants, bars and clubs early last year, critics called it unworkable and draconian. Health advocates celebrated and they had new cause for celebration yesterday when figures showed an 11 per cent decline in the numbers of smokers in the city.

But the extraordinary slide in the numbers of people habitually lighting up may have more to do with the wallet rather than the rule of law.

The decline of smokers in 2003, compared to the year before, was mostly attributed to a sharp rise in tax on cigarettes in 2002, increasing the price by as much as $1.50 (80p) a pack.

Whatever the root cause, the decline in smoking is one of the steepest measured in the records of the United States.

Additionally, researchers found that the consumption of cigarettes in the city's five boroughs slumped by 13 per cent.

Smokers who could not give up were apparently at least cutting back, although that may not account for smokers buying outside the city, where they are cheaper, including online.

Those counted in the survey include all people who say they have smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lives - about the number many addicts will puff through in a short week - and smoke every day or at least "some days". Statistics are not really necessary to observe the new trend. Even the most casual survey of habits in New York will register that smokers are on the run. No longer are ashtrays on desks in offices. The air is clean in the bars (with some exceptions when bartenders choose to allow patrons to break the law, usually after midnight.) Even lighting up on the street today can attract disgusted frowns.

Smokers have not completely disappeared. The study, compiled by the city's department of health, shows that in Manhattan, 18.7 per cent of adults are among those categorised as smokers. Oddly, the figure is far higher for the smallest of the boroughs, Staten Island, where the percentage is 25.8 per cent.

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