BCF Report: Southern Brooklyn is still smoking

February 25, 2012 Denise Romano
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Rates of cigarette smoking and binge drinking are higher in parts of southwest Brooklyn than in the rest of the borough, according to a comprehensive report by the Brooklyn Community Foundation (BCF), though the incidence of both has gone down since 2002.

According to the data made available by BCF for the Bensonhurst/Bay Ridge United Hospital Fund Neighborhood – whose borders are 70th Street to the north, Avenue Z to the east and Gravesend Bay to the south and west – 19.4 percent of residents smoked cigarettes in 2009, compared to 16.5 percent borough-wide. In 2002, 23.9 percent of residents said they smoked.

When it comes to binge drinking, stats have slightly improved also. In 2002, 13.4 percent of residents participated in binge drinking. That number was reduced to 10.4 percent in 2009, compared to 12.3 percent borough-wide.

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Marnee Elias-Pavia, district manager of Community Board 11 said that although the Brooklyn Smoke Free Partnership provides plenty of assistance to those trying to quit, it’s really up to the smoker. “Although there are literature, advertisements and outreach alerting people to the dangers of smoking and the resources that are available, people just won’t quit until they are ready,” she said, adding that she is a former smoker. “We can do so much better.”

The BCF worked with the Center for the Study of Brooklyn at Brooklyn College to release the first ever “Brooklyn Trends” report

“Too often, stats about Brooklyn get submerged in citywide stats that miss important local trends,” said Marilyn Gelber, president of BCF in a statement. “As we consider the data from across our distinct communities from Williamsburg and Bay Ridge to Park Slope and Brownsville, we begin to identify developments and disparities that confirm our progress, but also our challenges, and reveal the impact of new residents.”

Substance abuse in southern Brooklyn is an issue that has been receiving scrutiny in recent weeks. Since January, four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 died from accidental OxyContin overdoses, according to State Senator Marty Golden, who held a town hall meeting on teenage drug abuse on February 15.

It is alarming to learn,” Golden told this paper. “These numbers make it evident that we must provide the residents of Bensonhurst and Bath Beach with appropriate health education campaigns. I will follow up with Community Board 11 and look to partner with them and invite the New York City Health Department to our neighborhood to discuss efforts to reduce alcohol and tobacco use.

Katherine Khatari, a counselor from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Bay Ridge Neighborhood Office, blamed the stats on the economy. “With a bad economy, drinking goes up and with drinking goes smoking,” she explained. “Maybe boost the economy a bit and give us jobs!”

On a more serious note, Khatari said that there is usually little to be done when it comes to intervention. “When it comes to drinking, usually that person has to bottom out before they stop,” she said.

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