New Yorkers Are All Smoking Again, and We’re Not Really Surprised

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Newly released data from the city’s Health Department reveals that more New Yorkers now identify themselves as smokers than at any other time since 2007, and that the number of smokers in the city has once again passed the one million mark. This is the third year in a row that the number of smokers in New York has risen, leading city health officials to recognize the spike as being “significant.” It has also probably led former-mayor Bloomberg to smirk knowingly at what fools we all are without his constant supervision, but, well, who are we kidding? He probably does that on an hourly basis anyway.*

Via the Daily News, the increase in smokers has come about in part because while the city’s campaign was effective at getting heavy and long-term smokers to quit, it failed to target the kind of people who only smoke when they drink and never buy packs themselves but instead subsist by bumming the occasional smoke off someone else. In other words, the kind of people who make up literally 90% of the people I know. Because, seriously, even without this official data, it’s been pretty clear anecdotally that more and more people are sneaking (or, actually, not even sneaking) a cigarette or two or three a day without developing a full-blown pack-a-day habit. What I’m saying is, I’m not really surprised by these numbers because for all the people I know who’ve quit smoking completely in the last few years, many have just become more moderate in their tobacco intake, or have picked smoking up again, only to a much smaller degree.

But so as it turns out, the people I know? They’re the problem! Or maybe they’re not a problem and are just human and sometimes indulge in something that is not good for them at all, but, you know, what is? No! They’re a problem! At least they are according to the city of New York, which is now launching a new $830,000 campaign targeting light smokers that will be called “Imagine for Life.” The campaign will feature commercials showing young people with hacking coughs and the like, but, well, we kind of doubt they’re efficacy already because commercials? Who watches commercials? Certainly not the Millennials that the campaign is attempting to target. Oh, well. Nothing will ever be more disturbing and effective than those subway posters with the glass full of pure fatNothing.

*And, yes, we know the numbers started to rise under his tenure, but let’s face it, every good thing that ever happened on Bloomberg’s watch was because of him and every bad thing was in spite of him. Right? Uh, right.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen


  1. Mark Twain on Nicotine Nannies
    The Moral Statistician
    Originally published in Sketches, Old and New, 1893

    I don’t want any of your statistics; I took your whole batch and lit my pipe with it.
    I hate your kind of people. You are always ciphering out how much a man’s health is injured, and how much his intellect is impaired, and how many pitiful dollars and cents he wastes in the course of ninety-two years’ indulgence in the fatal practice of smoking; and in the equally fatal practice of drinking coffee; and in playing billiards occasionally; and in taking a glass of wine at dinner, etc. etc. And you are always figuring out how many women have been burned to death because of the dangerous fashion of wearing expansive hoops, etc. etc. You never see more than one side of the question.

    You are blind to the fact that most old men in America smoke and drink coffee, although, according to your theory, they ought to have died young; and that hearty old Englishmen drink wine and survive it, and portly old Dutchmen both drink and smoke freely, and yet grow older and fatter all the time. And you never try to find out how much solid comfort, relaxation, and enjoyment a man derives from smoking in the course of a lifetime (which is worth ten times the money he would save by letting it alone), nor the appalling aggregate of happiness lost in a lifetime by your kind of people from not smoking. Of course you can save money by denying yourself all those little vicious enjoyments for fifty years; but then what can you do with it? What use can you put it to? Money can’t save your infinitesimal soul. All the use that money can be put to is to purchase comfort and enjoyment in this life; therefore, as you are an enemy to comfort and enjoyment where is the use of accumulating cash?

    It won’t do for you to say that you can use it to better purpose in furnishing a good table, and in charities, and in supporting tract societies, because you know yourself that you people who have no petty vices are never known to give away a cent, and that you stint yourselves so in the matter of food that you are always feeble and hungry. And you never dare to laugh in the daytime for fear some poor wretch, seeing you in a good humor, will try to borrow a dollar of you; and in church you are always down on your knees, with your ears buried in the cushion, when the contribution-box comes around; and you never give the revenue officers a full statement of your income.

    Now you know all these things yourself, don’t you? Very well, then, what is the use of your stringing out your miserable lives to a lean and withered old age? What is the use of your saving money that is so utterly worthless to you? In a word, why don’t you go off somewhere and die, and not be always trying to seduce people into becoming as ornery and unlovable as you are yourselves, by your villainous “moral statistics”?

    Now, I don’t approve of dissipation, and I don’t indulge in it either; but I haven’t a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty vices. And so I don’t want to hear from you any more. I think you are the very same man who read me a long lecture last week about the degrading vice of smoking cigars, and then came back, in my absence, with your reprehensible fire-proof gloves on, and carried off my beautiful parlor stove.

  2. It’s America that’s popularized antismoking insanity – again, and which other countries are following suit. The problem with Americans is that they are clueless to even their own recent history. America has a terrible history with this sort of “health” fanaticism/zealotry/extremism or “clean living” hysteria – including antismoking – that goes back more than a century.

    Antismoking is not new. It has a long, sordid, 400+ year history, much of it predating even the pretense of a scientific basis or the more recent concoction of secondhand smoke “danger”. Antismoking crusades typically run on inflammatory propaganda, i.e., lies, in order to get law-makers to institute bans. Statistics and causal attribution galore are conjured. The current antismoking rhetoric has all been heard before. All it produces is irrational fear and hatred, discord, enmity, animosity, social division, oppression, and bigotry. One of the two major antismoking (and anti-alcohol, dietary prescriptions/proscriptions, physical exercise) crusades early last century was in America. [The other crusade was in WWII Germany and the two crusades were intimately connected by physician-led eugenics]. The USA has been down this twisted, divisive path before. Consider the following: The bulk of claims made about smoking/tobacco were erroneous, baseless, but highly inflammatory. Unfortunately, the propaganda did its destructive job in the short term, producing mass hysteria or a bigotry bandwagon. When supported by the State, zealots seriously mess with people’s minds on a mass scale.

    For a brief history of antismoking, see:
    “Cigarette Wars: The ‘Triumph’ of the Little White Slaver” (1998) by Cassandra Tate. Google the following combination – “the endless war on tobacco” “seattletimes” – which should bring up a summary article of the book at the Seattle Times.

    Gordon L. Dillow (1981), “Thank You for Not Smoking” [The Hundred-Year War Against the Cigarette]

    Robert Proctor (1996), “The anti-tobacco campaign of the N#zis: a little known aspect of public health in Germany, 1933-45”

  3. The current antismoking crusade, very much in the eugenics tradition – involving the same medically-aligned personnel and repugnant methodology, is much like crusades over the previous 400 years. It is a moralizing, social-engineering, eradication/prohibition crusade decided upon in the 1970s by a small, self-installed clique of [medically-oriented] fanatics operating under the auspices of the World Health Organization and sponsored by the American Cancer Society (see the “Godber Blueprint”). This little, unelected group, using much the same inflammatory rhetoric of its fanatical predecessors, decided for everyone that tobacco-use should be eradicated from the world – for a “better” (according to them) world. These fanatics were speaking of secondhand smoke “danger” and advocating indoor and OUTDOOR smoking bans years before the first study on SHS, and extortionate taxes on tobacco years before contrived “cost burden” analyses of smoking: In the 1970s, populations – particularly in relatively free societies – weren’t interested in elitist social-engineering, particularly by a group (medically-aligned) that had a horrible recent track record (eugenics). Given that their antismoking crusade would have otherwise stalled, the zealots conjured secondhand smoke “danger” to advance the social-engineering agenda, i.e., inflammatory propaganda. Until only recently the zealots claimed they weren’t doing social engineering, that they weren’t moralizing. Well, that’s a lie that’s been told many times over the last few decades.

    The zealots’ goal this time is not to ban the sale of tobacco but to ban smoking in essentially all the places that people smoke (combined with extortionate taxes), indoors and out. Up until recently the social-engineering intent has been masqueraded as protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke “danger”. But even this fraud can no longer be hidden in that bans are now being instituted for large outdoor areas such as parks, beaches, campuses where there is no demonstrable “health” issue for nonsmokers. This dangerous mix of the medically-aligned attempting social engineering is a throwback to a century ago. We seem to have learned nothing of value from very painful lessons of only the recent past.


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