Smoke-Free Air Act Improved The Lives of New Yorkers

Our Administration has never been afraid to take bold steps to improve the quality of life in New York City; and some of the efforts that initially faced the most resistance have turned out to be the most popular – and the most effective.

This week, for instance, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Smoke-Free Air Act: the law that prohibits smoking at all indoor workplaces in our City, including bars and restaurants.Ten years ago, opponents of the Smoke-Free Air Act said it would hurt the restaurant and bar business, damage our tourism industry, and lead to job losses and lost tax revenue.

But in fact, just the opposite happened. There are nearly 6,000 more bars and restaurants in our city than there were when the law passed, a 47 percent increase. And the number of New Yorkers working in bars and restaurants is up 48 percent, which means that for every ten bar and restaurant jobs that existed in 2002, there are now five more. What about tourism? Last year we set a new all-time record of 52 million visitors, who put more than $55 billion into New York’s economy, more than double the economic impact tourism had in 2002.

A lot of that money is spent in restaurants and bars. And all of this points to the fact that being smoke-free made bars and restaurants more welcoming and successful – not less.

Even more significant is the impact the Smoke-Free law had on public health – including for non-smokers. Ten years ago, more than 400,000 non-smoking New Yorkers were exposed to cigarette smoke in their workplaces, and countless others were forced to breathe it in when they went to bars and restaurants. Thanks to the Smoke-Free Air Act, that’s no longer the case – and I can’t tell you how many restaurant workers have told me what a difference it has made in their lives.

Today, because of the work we’ve done to reduce tobacco use, there are nearly half-a-million fewer New Yorkers smoking than at the start of our Administration. Smoking among adults has dropped by more than a third, while smoking among high school students has dropped by more than half. That’s a big reason why life expectancy in our City is three years longer than it was in 2000. We can still do more – and we recently announced two new measures to reduce smoking even further, especially among teens. One new law would remove cigarettes from visible displays in most stores; the other would end the sale of discount cigarettes. Both would help save lives – and we’ll work with the City Council to enact them.

For 10 years, the City’s Smoke-Free Air Act has served as a model for cities and countries around the world: here in the U.S., 35 states and more than 500 local governments enacted smoke-free laws after our reform went into effect – and today, more than 250 million Americans are protected by those laws. Around the world, 49 countries have also followed our lead and passed smoke-free legislation. That just goes to show – when New York leads, the world follows. And together, our City will continue to show bold leadership to tackle the toughest problems and build a strong, healthy future.


Bloomberg is Mayor of New York City

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