NEW YORK, May 12 (AFP) - New York officials trumpeted the success of their anti-smoking policies on Wednesday, after a new survey showed the number of smokers in the city had declined by 100,000 in one year.
"This is extraordinarily good news for the health of New Yorkers," said city Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden. "Among the 100,000 now former smokers, at least 30,000 premature deaths will be prevented."
After a decade in which the number of smokers has held steady, the survey, carried out by Baruch College, revealed an 11 percent decline in New York City from 2002 to 2003.
City health officials attributed the survey's findings to a massive hike in tobacco taxes in 2002 that, overnight, added 1.5 dollars to the price of a packet of cigarettes.
That was followed by a citywide smoking ban in public places, including bars and restaurants, that came into effect on April 1, 2003.
The survey also showed a 13 percent decline in cigarette consumption, suggesting that unreformed smokers were at least smoking less than before.
"Most smokers want to quit and, for the first time ever, there are more former smokers than there are smokers in New York City," said Frieden. "Despite this remarkable decline, much more needs to be done."
The survey showed smoking rates had declined among all age groups, racial and ethnic groups, and among both men and women.
Not everyone is enamoured of the city's anti-smoking policies. Some bar owners say the smoking ban has cost them dearly in terms of lost customers.
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