NYC Life Expectancy Is Seen Linked to Stepped Up Anti-Smoking Policy

New York City heart-disease deaths have dropped 28 percent since 2002, a decrease the Health Department attributes to bans on public smoking, cigarette taxes and ads depicting tobacco-related illnesses.

The statistics were contained in a report Mayor Michael Bloomberg released yesterday giving babies born in New York a record life expectancy of 80.6 years, three years more than in 2000 and above the national rate of 78.2 years. The report also showed AIDS fatalities have dropped faster than any other cause of death in the city.

“If you want to live longer and healthier than the average American, come to New York City,” Bloomberg said as he released the report. “By investing in health care and continuing to encourage more New Yorkers to take charge of their own health, we’ve experienced dramatic improvements in life expectancy.”

In September, the Health Department said the city’s adult smoking rate had reached a record low, with only 14 of 100 New Yorkers still smoking, a 35 percent decrease since 2002. Health officials said the decline would prevent 50,000 premature deaths in the next 40 years.

Dan Seidman, director of smoking-cessation services at Columbia University’s behavioral-medicine program, said the city’s campaign has had a big impact on reducing heart disease.

“It’s really impressive, since that’s been the big killer in middle age and old age,” Seidman said in an interview.

Americans 65 and older now account for the largest percentage of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. From 2000 to 2010, the number of people 65 and older grew 15.1 percent while the total population increased 9.7 percent, the bureau said.

Anti-Smoking Policies

The Health Department analyzed data from death certificates to conclude that preventive measures and medical care contributed to the increase in life expectancy. Smoke-free air policies in city parks and laws against smoking in all workplaces -- including bars and restaurants -- cut smoking rates among women to 12.2 percent in 2010 from 19.8 percent in 2002, the department reported.

Officials also attributed reduced smoking to a 4.3 percent decrease in the cancer-death rate since 2002, to 162.9 deaths per 100,000 people from 170.2 in 2010.

The anti-smoking campaign has also been bolstered with improved care and access to medication for people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease, the department said in a statement.

Improvement Within Hours

“It’s hard to break out the extent to which cardiovascular deaths have decreased from government actions or improved medical care and diet and exercise,” said Susan Kansagra, assistant commissioner for the Health Department’s Bureau of Tobacco Control. “But heart disease and high blood pressure improve within hours or days after someone stops smoking.”

City health officials expect that of 450,000 smokers who have quit in the past 10 years, 150,000 will avoid smoking- related deaths, she said. Declines in cancer rates from smoking cessation take decades to show up statistically, she said.

Bloomberg, 69, the billionaire founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money on public health initiatives, including a United Nations-sponsored international anti-smoking campaign. His donations to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he studied as an undergraduate, endowed the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

HIV Deaths

Among the improvements cited in yesterday’s report was an 11.3 percent decrease in HIV deaths since 2009, and a 52 percent decline since 2002. The report attributed the drop to the Health Department’s cooperation with clinics and community organizations in conducting more than 600,000 HIV tests in three years.

Since 2005, city hospitals have diagnosed 10,700 HIV- positive individuals and linked them with medical care, the report stated.

In fiscal 2011, city facilities tested 195,516 patients, more than three times the number six years earlier, and “preliminary data suggests that fewer than 3,500 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in New York City for 2010, a more than a 30 percent decrease from 2002,” the Health Department said.

In 2010, the city’s infant-mortality rate fell to a historic low of 4.9 deaths per 1,000 live births -- the lowest since 1898, when the five boroughs were combined to form the modern city of New York.

Heart disease, cancer and influenza/pneumonia continue to rank as the top three causes of death, followed by lung disease and diabetes, and 30 percent of all deaths in New York City occur before age 65, with more than 15,000 New Yorkers dying prematurely, the department reported.

New Yorkers are also less likely to die by homicide than they were a few decades ago. The number of murders this year will total “slightly more than” 500, the third fewest since record-keeping began five decades ago, Bloomberg said today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Goldman in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Schoifet at

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