Health Buzz: Smoking Rate Drops Drastically in New York

12 reasons to really quit smoking; is it possible to be smoke-free in 30 days?

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Fewer New Yorkers Lighting Up Than Ever Before

The number of cigarette smokers in New York City has dropped to an all-time low, suggesting that an aggressive anti-smoking campaign launched by Mayor Michael Bloomberg nearly a decade ago is working. Just 14 percent of adults said they were smokers in 2010, down from 22 percent in 2002; that means 450,000 fewer people are now lighting up. City health officials are particularly pleased that the smoking rate among public high school students dropped to 7 percent in 2010, compared with 18 percent in 2000. "A 7 percent smoking rate among kids—holy cow," Russell Sciandra, a New York State official of the American Cancer Society, told the New York Times. "Having this new generation coming up with much lower smoking rates than you've ever seen historically is what's really pulling down the rate, and of course that promises great things for the future." Bloomberg banned smoking in bars and restaurants in 2003, and in May, the city extended the smoking ban to parks, beaches, and pedestrian plazas. Higher cigarette taxes are also playing a role in deterring New Yorkers from smoking. Last year, city, state, and federal taxes amounted to $6.86 a pack, compared with $1.58 in 2000—bringing the cost of a pack to about $11.20. Implementing similar policies nationwide could help Americans kick the habit, city officials speculate.

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  • 12 Reasons to Really Quit Smoking

    We'll spare you the lecture. (Seriously, though. Stamp out that butt and flush the pack, already.) Tobacco use, namely cigarette smoking, is the chief cause of preventable death in the U.S. Left unbridled, smoking could kill more than a billion people this century, according to the World Health Organization, U.S. News reported in 2008. The reasons to quit smoking keep amassing—and they're not all about heart disease, lung cancer, or respiratory problems. Here's a few downsides you might not have considered.

    1. It fogs the mind. Smoking may cloud the mind, according to accumulating research. A 2008 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that smoking in middle age is linked to memory problems and to a slide in reasoning abilities, though these risks appeared lessened for those who'd long quit; this is important, the authors wrote, because other research has shown that people with mild cognitive impairment in midlife develop dementia at an accelerated rate. Their report piggybacks on several focused on the older set: A 2007 analysis of 19 prior studies concluded that elderly smokers face a heightened risk of dementia and cognitive decline, compared with lifelong nonsmokers. And in 2004, researchers reported in Neurology that smoking appeared to hasten cognitive decline in dementia-free elderly smokers, bringing it on several times faster than in their nonsmoking peers.

    2. It may bring on diabetes. As if we need any more risk factors for diabetes, an analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that across 25 prior studies, current smokers have a 44 percent greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers do, and the risk was strongest for those with the heaviest habit, who clocked 20 or more cigarettes per day. In an accompanying editorial, researchers made a striking estimation: That some 12 percent of all type 2 diabetes cases nationwide might be attributable to smoking. [Read more: 12 Reasons to Really Quit Smoking.]

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    • Is It Possible to Be Smoke Free in 30 Days?

      By now, it's almost a cliché to reiterate that smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the U.S. Yet approximately 46 million Americans are still lighting up, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2010, U.S. News spoke to clinical psychologist Daniel Seidman, director of smoking cessation services at Columbia University Medical Center, about his book Smoke-Free in 30 Days: The Pain-Free, Permanent Way to Quit (Fireside Trade Paperback Original). In it, Seidman draws on his 20-plus years of experience with thousands of patients and walks people through the quitting process—including how to prepare for the "quit day" and how to maintain their success.