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More New Yorkers than ever have put out their last cigarette.

The number of New York City smokers has reached all-time lows, officials recently announced. In the past decade nearly half a million New Yorkers have put out their cigarettes, with 100,000 smokers quitting between 2009 and 2010. Smoking is down 35 percent throughout the city over the past eight years.

“Smoking is the leading cause of preventable, premature death in New York City and the nation today and we’re proud that a record number of New Yorkers are saving their own lives by quitting,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Approximately 7,200 New Yorkers die from smoking-related illnesses each year – which equals more than 19 every day. The mayor estimated that the decrease in smokers will prevent 50,000 premature deaths. Smoking-related deaths fell 12 percent between 2004 and 2009.

“There is no question that addiction to cigarettes is a main source of poor health and premature death,” said Senator Michael Gianaris. “It is promising to see so many are learning to conquer this bad habit so they can live longer and be more prosperous.”

The percentage of smokers remained stagnant – around 21 percent – between 1993 and 2002, when the city’s campaign to curb smoking began.

In 2002, a pack of cigarettes cost only $5.20. Prices rose as the tax on packs increased. New Yorkers pay $4.35 tax per pack, which is the highest in that nation and almost a dollar more than second place Rhode Island. A pack of cigarettes can now cost up to $15 in the city.

Higher taxes and the resulting higher prices has had a significant effect on underage smokers. Underage smoking rates have fallen 60 percent since 2002 – and are more than 12 percent points below national averages.

In the past decade the mayor has also strengthened the city’s Smoke Free Air Act spreading smoking bans to bars and restaurants, hospital grounds and most recently, public parks and beaches.

Though historic progress has been made, City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley still believes too many preventable deaths are plaguing the city.

“Smoking will kill about 7,000 New Yorkers this year. For me, as Health Commissioner, this is way too many deaths and they are preventable. We will continue to work to lower smoking rates even further,” Farley said.

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