BY ACACIA SQUIRE
Host: Smoking is the world’s number one preventable cause of death. For the past 10 years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made it his personal mission to prevent some of these deaths. His administration has rolled out one initiative after another to prevent smoking right here in the city. Now, he’s expanding his campaign internationally. Acacia Squires takes a look.
Squires: This week health advocates from around the world are gathering in Singapore at the 15th annual World Conference on Tobacco. One of the advocates there is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He took the opportunity yesterday to announce a sizeable donation.
Bloomberg: We just committed another 220 million dollars over the next four years to help work and convince governments to help raise taxes because if you raise taxes, kids stop smoking, and if kids don’t smoke as kids, they won’t smoke as adults and they will live a lot longer and healthier lives.
Squires: Raising taxes on cigarettes was one of Mayor Bloomberg’s first initiatives after he took office in 2001. Back then, the tax was just eight cents. Now, with city and state combined, smokers in the big apple pay five dollars in taxes, swelling the total cost of some brands to fifteen dollars a pack.
Smoker Warren Duncan is standing outside of work on Broadway and one hundred sixty eighth street, taking a drag.
Sound: 168th Street and Broadway
Squires: This sidewalk is one of the last places where Duncan can publically smoke in the city. In 2010 Bloomberg banned smoking in bars and restaurants, and in 2011 he banned it in parks and on beaches. He says the heavy cigarette taxes don’t deter him.
Squires: How much do you pay for a pack of cigarettes?
Duncan: I pay eight bucks a pack.
Squires: Okay, I won’t ask you where you get your cigarettes (laughs).
Duncan: Chinatown, Chinatown, everything is in Chinatown.
Squires: This is still a problem in the city. Some retailers sell cigarettes they import illegally. Despite that, Dr. Barron Lerner at the Mailman School of public health says Bloomberg’s campaign has been successful in New York City.
Lerner: I think what’s happened in New York City was a total success. I mean the rates of smoking went way down. The numbers of tobacco related deaths in the City have estimated to have fallen dramatically. Rates of smoking have gone way down.
Squires: He says Bloomberg taking his anti-smoking tactics abroad is a great idea.
Lerner: Bloomberg hopes that it can be transported overseas on an international basis where similar strategies can be used.
Squires: Zandra Feather started smoking when she was just twelve years old. Bloomberg is helping to catch kids like her, before they’re hooked. She’s walking to class at Columbia University.
Sound: 116th and Broadway St Street.
Squires: By the time Feather was twenty-two, she decided it was time to quit. Now she applauds the crackdown.
Feather: Here’s the thing, I don’t have a problem with smokers smoking. But I do have a problem when I am in a park, trying to enjoy my day and someone is smoking next to me and I am inhaling their cigarette smoke.
Squires: So, what did she think when Bloomberg the outdoor smoking measure last year?
Feather: Well, I was thrilled, but it’s not like there’s any enforcement measures so I haven’t really experienced an effect.
Squires: She’s right, New Yorkers are supposed to report smokers they see in city parks and on beaches, but the fifty dollar fine seems to be rarely imposed. Bloomberg hopes his charitable donation will lead to similar initiatives abroad. Acacia Squires, Columbia Radio NewsS