Today’s news:

Kick the habit with free patches, gum

With a pack of cigarettes rising to more than $9, the city is relaunching its efforts to encourage smokers to quit their deadly habit.

The Health Department is offering free nicotine patches and gum to smokers who call 311 or 1−866−NYQuits or visit www.nysmokefree.com.

The rising cost of cigarettes often convinces smokers to quit.

“It is the strongest public health data there is,” explained Sally Cooper, regional vice president of the American Cancer Society’s Brooklyn division.

While Brooklyn’s smoking rates are not higher than those for other boroughs — Staten Island takes top honors — some neighborhoods and ethnic groups continue to puff away.

“In some communities, smoking is a more common cultural habit,” Cooper explained. “With folks who are fairly recent immigrants, there are going to be higher smoking rates. We know that among Korean−American men, there’s very high rates of smoking. ”

By neighborhood, “We have a little bit higher smoking rate in Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst,” Cooper said.

In spite of public knowledge that smoking can cause lung cancer, Brooklynites continue to light up because the habit is incredibly difficult to kick.

“The addiction itself is very similar to heroin and cocaine addiction in the biological way it works. It’s a very tough addiction,” Cooper explained.

“Three−quarters of smokers want to quit,” Cooper noted.

It often takes 12 to 15 tries before a smoker successfully kicks the habit.

Cooper offered some advice to Brooklynites ready to quit — and eager to stop wasting their hard−earned cash on nicotine.

The most important thing to do is find a support system. That includes friends and family members but also the state’s hotline, 1−866−NYQuits.

“New York City has one of the lowest smoking rates in the country right now. That’s because thousands and thousands of New Yorkers have quit in the last few years,” Cooper said.

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