The rate for 2006 is the lowest on record, 17.5 percent, say new figures from the City’s Health Department. Over the past year, smoking decreased among men from 22.5 percent to 19.9 percent and among Hispanics from 20.2 percent to 17.1 percent. These large declines followed a year-long ad campaign aimed at prompting more smokers to quit.

Beginning in 2002, and after a decade with no progress, New York City increased the tobacco tax, eliminated smoking in virtually all workplaces, and launched hard-hitting anti-tobacco ads. By all indications, the interventions have made a difference. “Hard-hitting ads work,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. “Especially when they’re paired with a tobacco tax and smoke-free air legislation. With nearly a quarter of a million fewer smokers, New York City is leading the way on tobacco control. There aren’t many programs that can prevent 80,000 premature deaths this quickly.”

Ads from the 2006 campaign graphically depicted tobacco smoke’s effects on the brain, lungs and arteries, showing testimonials from sick and dying smokers and their children, including former smoker Ronaldo Martinez, who now breaths through a hole in his throat as a result of smoking-related cancer. In a separate recent survey, nine out of ten smokers said they saw the ads - and half of smokers said the ads made them want to quit.

The smoking rate fell faster among women 23 percent decline than among men (15 percent decline). Rates among young adults aged 18-24 have declined twice as much as rates among other adult age groups. Among all ethnic groups, Asian New Yorkers have made the most progress, with a 30 percent decline in the smoking rates, though Asian males still smoke at a rate of 16.4 percent.; Source: New York City Health Department