NEW YORK, May 5 (UPI) -- New York City reached its lowest rate of smoking on record -- 15.8 percent, with 350,000 fewer smokers than in 2002, city health officials said.
Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, city health commissioner, said the less than 1 million adult smokers in the city can still participate in the annual Nicotine Patch and Gum Program.
The program provides New Yorkers with nicotine replacement therapy at no cost. Last year's program prompted 30,000 New Yorkers to call 311 for help quitting smoking, Frieden said.
The city's adult smoking rate has fallen since 2002, from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 15.8 percent in 2008, a decline that could prevent more than 115,000 premature deaths in future years, Frieden said. Among smokers, the proportion of heavy daily smokers -- 11 or more cigarettes per day -- has fallen from 36.4 percent to 28.7 percent since 2002.
"Most New Yorkers who have ever smoked have already quit, and today New York City has 350,000 fewer adult smokers than in 2002," Frieden said in a statement. "Cigarettes still kill more than 7,000 New Yorkers every year and harm thousands more. Now is the time to quit smoking."