Health Department Releases Report Showing Significant Decline In Exposure To Secondhand Smoke Among Nonsmoking Adults 

Exposure has decreased by 35 percent from 2004 to 2014

New Yorkers in high-poverty neighborhoods were more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke


September 1, 2016 – The Health Department and the City University of New York School of Public Health have published a study that highlights a 35 percent decline in secondhand exposure among adult nonsmokers from 2004 to 2014 (56.7 percent to 37.1 percent). The study, which used the New York City Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, found a decrease in exposure was seen across age, sex, and racial/ethnic groups. However, New Yorkers in high-poverty neighborhoods, Asian New Yorkers, adults aged 20 to 39, and those with less education were more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke. This study and others have shown that living with a smoker is one of most important risk factors for exposure to secondhand smoke, and that making one’s home smoke-free can decrease exposure.

“We are pleased that New York City’s comprehensive tobacco control policies have resulted in a 35 percent decrease in the number of New Yorkers exposed to secondhand smoke,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “However, too many New Yorkers are exposed to secondhand smoke in their own homes. I encourage all New Yorkers to make their homes smoke-free for the health of their own family, as well as for their neighbors and visitors.”

This study measured cotinine, a nicotine metabolite found in the blood, to examine exposure to secondhand smoke. Although secondhand smoke exposure has decreased in NYC, more adult non-smoking New Yorkers were exposed to secondhand smoke than adult nonsmokers nationally (37.1 percent compared with 24.4 percent). This is likely because New York City has a greater population density and New Yorkers encounter cigarette smoke in multi-unit apartment buildings, on sidewalks, and at other common outdoor areas.

The large decrease in secondhand smoke exposure is a result of policies implemented in the past decade to implement tougher rules against tobacco. These efforts included the Smoke-Free Air Act, which prohibited smoking in workplaces, including bars and restaurants as well as parks, beaches and pedestrian plazas, increasing awareness of the hazards of secondhand smoke, educating building developers, owners, and managers about the health benefits of making buildings smoke-free, and encouraging New Yorkers to limit exposure in their homes. Decreases in the number of cigarettes adult New Yorkers smoked daily likely also resulted in less secondhand smoke exposure.

“New York’s public health laws and education programs really do work.  Keeping public places, work places and homes smoke-free means reducing exposure to secondhand tobacco toxins and improvements in our health,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried of Manhattan, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health.

"For more than a decade, we have advocated that everyone has the right to breathe smokefree air," said Jeff Seyler, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. "Today's data shows that our efforts in New York have directly improved the health of millions of New Yorkers. The Smoke-Free Air Act is a cornerstone of the success we celebrate today, and we look forward to further improving air quality in the places we live, work and play."

"The sharp decline in secondhand smoke exposure among non-smokers powerfully demonstrates the impact of New York City’s historic Smoke-free Air Act,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “New York's smoke-free law has not only improved the health of New Yorkers. It also helped inspire a movement that has swept the nation and the world – showing that these laws are easily implemented, achieve almost universal compliance and quickly improve air quality and health. We applaud New York City’s continuing efforts to expand smoke-free protections so everyone truly has the right to breathe clean air.”

“Secondhand smoke is a major preventable cause of heart disease and stroke. These diseases are our nation’s leading sources of death and disability,” said Robin Vitale, Senior Director of Government Relations at the American Heart Association / American Stroke Association.  “We applaud the city’s tremendous progress in reducing exposure to secondhand smoke through a robust combination of cessation support, community education and policy intervention.  Let’s finish the job!  We encourage all New Yorkers to quit smoking.  If you, or someone you share a home with, is struggling with tobacco addiction, please call 311 to find cessation resources near you.”

Tools and resources on how to quit smoking and cope with withdrawal are available on nyc.gov, by searching “NYC Quits,” or by following this link to access a cessation guide. New Yorkers can also use the “Text NYC Quits” service, which provides smokers and recent quitters with real-time, around-the-clock advice, support, tips and encouragement. Whether someone is thinking about quitting, has set a quit date or are four days smoke-free, “Text NYC Quits” has supportive messages to keep quitters motivated. To sign up, simply text “NYCQUITS” to 877-877. Using these services can make smokers twice as likely to successfully quit smoking.

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MEDIA CONTACT:
Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez: (347) 396-4177
pressoffice@health.nyc.gov