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Published: Thursday, 6/28/2007

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IF IT can happen in New York City it can happen anywhere. Smoking has dropped sharply in the Big Apple since aggressive efforts to curb the unhealthy habit began. The finding by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is proof - if any were needed - that concerted, continual efforts to reduce smoking produce real results.

After a decade of almost no progress in the fight to reduce smoking, the number of adult smokers in New York City fell from 21.6 percent in 2002, when the city began its smoking crackdown, to just 17.5 percent last year. According to the CDC, there were 240,000 fewer smokers in the city in 2006 than there were four years earlier.

New York launched its effort in 2002 with a combination of higher cigarette taxes, smoke-free environments, and forceful educational campaigns. Five years ago New York raised taxes on cigarettes to the highest level in the United States at the time, boosting the retail price of a pack by 32 percent.

A year later the city introduced smoke-free workplaces. By 2004 the percentage of smoking adults in New York City declined to 18.4 percent. But when the downward trend in smoking appeared to level off in 2005, the city embarked on a year-long TV campaign to encourage more smokers to quit.

It worked. The project particularly resonated with men and Hispanics whose smoking rates both fell significantly between 2005 and 2006.

"These findings confirm the importance of comprehensive tobacco-control programs and suggest that this intensive, broad-based media campaign has reduced smoking prevalence among certain groups," said the CDC.

And as New York City goes so go many other cities and states across the country caught up in the same kind of enthusiasm to clean the air with smoke-free initiatives and get rid of secondhand smoke. The American Cancer Society says 23 states, including Ohio, have enacted smoking bans to protect the health of millions of workers and patrons.

Many other states are following suit, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, where state legislatures are currently considering statewide smoking bans. The cancer society says 57 percent of the U.S. population now lives under smoking bans or restrictions at the state or local level.

But the fight for a healthier smoke-free society is not yet won and tobacco use still remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. So clear results like New York's need to be shouted across the land.

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