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Smoking in Philadelphia Down Nearly 15% Since 2008


To mark the 37th annual Great American Smoke Out, Health Commissioner Donald F. Schwarz spoke at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College. He congratulated the school for becoming the first 100% smoke-free college in the city and announced that smoking rates in Philadelphia were at their lowest levels in recent history.

Between 2008 and 2012, smoking among adults decreased by nearly 15 percent from 27.3% to 23.5%, resulting in 40,000 fewer smokers. Dr. Schwarz cited the city’s Clean Indoor Air Law, an increase in the federal excise tax on cigarettes, and the Get Healthy Philly initiative as contributors to the decrease in smoking.

“In Philadelphia, we’ve protected residents from secondhand smoke, prevented youth initiation, and helped smokers quit,” noted Dr. Schwarz. “That’s a recipe from reduced smoking, better health and productivity, and lower health care costs.”

Making indoor and outdoor space smoke-free has been a key strategy. Championed by Mayor Michael Nutter, the Clean Indoor Air Worker Protection Law prohibited smoking in bars, restaurants, and workplaces. It was passed in 2006 and implemented in 2007.

In 2009, the Restaurant School, under the leadership of President Daniel Liberatoscioli, implemented a smoke-free policy, barring smoking from all indoor and outdoor campus spaces. Only a few other culinary schools in the nation have done the same.

“We wanted to discourage smoking and protect our staff, students and customers from second-hand smoke, while also creating a healthier and more pleasant campus environment,” commented President Liberatoscioli. “And we wanted to send a clear message that smoking is not part of a good, healthy lifestyle for the college community and beyond.”  

Smoking remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. and Philadelphia. Over the last decade, over 20,000 Philadelphians have died from smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, stroke, and asthma. Thousands more have suffered from secondhand smoke exposure, including infants and children.

Through Get Healthy Philly, the City has tackled smoking through a multi-faceted strategy. Over 200 City-owned recreation centers and playgrounds were made smoke-free. Illegal sales to youth were decreased by 20% through merchant education, higher fines, and aggressive enforcement. An anti-smoking media campaign was seen or heard 24 million times. Seventy thousand low-income smokers were given greater access to smoking cessation medications through Medicaid. And free nicotine patches were made available through the Quitline to nearly 10,000 Philadelphians.

This year, the PA Department of Health is offering up to 8 weeks of free nicotine patches and free cessation counseling via the Quitline. Philadelphia smokers interested in quitting should call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

“Smokers who quit with help, like medications and counseling, are twice as likely to quit for good,” said Dr. Schwarz.

Details of these and other anti-smoking initiatives can be found at and  

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