Kathryn Garcia could be first cigarette-smoking NYC mayor since ’65

City Hall hasn’t had a cigarette smoker-in-residence since Mayor Robert Wagner left office in 1965 — but that would change if former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia wins the June 22 Democratic primary.

Garcia, who is neck-and-neck in recent polls with Maya Wiley for second place and close behind frontrunner Eric Adams, currently puffs away at a half pack to a full pack of Marlboro Golds a day.

She promises to quit if elected, though she doesn’t yet have any concrete plans to kick her lifelong nicotine addiction.

“I’m going to pretty much focus on exercise,” the 51-year-old told The Post about her tobacco habit.

“Also I’m going to use whatever I can — Nicorette, the patch, whatever makes it possible,” Garcia said.

Garcia said she wants to kick the nasty habit custom so she’s not a bad role model to young women who’d look up to her as the city’s first female mayor.

One public health official told The Post Garcia would have trouble promoting public health policies as a heavy smoker.

“How does it look as public official to do something that’s contrary to the health and safety of her population? At what point is it considered not a great choice for the health of the community?” asked Dr. Michele Smallidge, a lecturer at the University of New Haven’s School of Health Sciences.

“It really isn’t a secret that it’s a bad health choice,” Dr. Smallidge said, citing a laundry list of risk factors, from cancer to heart disease and respiratory illnesses.

Ashley Sharpton, a youth leader for her father, the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, said she endorsed Adams — a vegan — in part because of his salubrious lifestyle.

“His commitment to health and wellness is A1 and he is a great example for all including myself to turn away from unhealthy daily habit,” Sharpton told The Post.

Ashley Sharpton, Rev. Al Sharpton’s daughter endorses Eric Adams for mayor outside  the National Action Network Headquarters at 106 W 145 St. on May 27, 2021.
Ashley Sharpton, Rev. Al Sharpton’s daughter endorses Eric Adams for mayor outside the National Action Network Headquarters at 106 W 145 St. on May 27, 2021.
Matthew McDermott

Like many smokers, Garcia has quit before but relapsed.

“I’ll be able to get off of it and there’s some sort of triggering event that pushed you back and you convince yourself you’ll have just one,” she admitted.

“I’d like to follow in Obama’s footsteps here,” said Garcia, referring to the former president who said in 2009 he’d mostly quit smoking.

Garcia was unaware that Obama later revealed in his memoir that he secretly smoked up to 10 cigarettes a day to cope with the stress of the job.

“Public health has to be at the top of the next mayor’s agenda, so it’s good to have someone who is willing to talk about it openly and try to set a better example for New Yorkers,” Councilman Keith Powers (D-Manhattan) told The Post.

Former Mayor Wagner, who brought the World’s Fair to Queens and lost the Brooklyn Dodgers to California, was a chain smoker who died at age 80 in 1991.

And while the late David Dinkins, the city’s only black mayor, smoked while he served in the Marines in the 1940s, he quit shortly after.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani smoked — but he stuck to cigars. Other mayors led the charge for anti-smoking legislation, most recently billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who banned smoking in city bars and restaurants in 2002.

Additional reporting by Sam Raskin

Leave a Comment