A national coalition of anti-smoking advocates has ranked New York 21st among states in funding for smoking cessation programs.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, funded by cancer and anti-smoking charities, found that New York has continually cut spending for anti-smoking programs over the past several years. It’s declined from a high of $85 million a year under Governor Eliot Spitzer to $39.7 million dollars in Governor Andrew Cuomo's current budget, which was cut more than 5 percent from last year. According to the group, that spending is about 16 percent of the $254 million in yearly funding recommended for New York by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Washington, D.C.-based Campaign's Vince Willmore explains New York has been a national leader in the fight against tobacco with its high tobacco tax, strong anti-smoking laws and a well-funded tobacco-prevention program. "...but in the last two years New York has cut funding for tobacco prevention by more than half, so this year New York will get about 2-point-3 billion dollars in revenue from the tobacco setllement and tobacco taxes, but it's spending less than two cents on every dollar to fight tobacco use, so we're very concerned that unless New York restores funding for tobacco prevention programs, the state's progress could stop and even reverse."
Speaking in a WAMC commentary earlier this year, Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Group and previously of the American Cancer Society pointed out that tobacco causes the overwhelming majority of lung cancers in New York, and accounts for approximately one in four cancer deaths in the state. "A recent analysis estimated that smoking causes 9,610 cancer deaths in one year, which is by far the single biggest cause of cancer deaths. The best way to avoid cancers caused by smoking is to never start. Yet virtually all smokers start using tobacco products prior to the age of 18, the legal minimum age for the purchasing of tobacco products."
New York State Division of Budget spokesman Morris Peters counters the Empire State's Smoking Cessation program has been very effective. “For example, high school smoking is down by 56 per cent since 2000, middle-school smoking is down by 70 per cent during the same period. These trends are important because the vast majority of adult smokers begin smoking when they are teens. So we’re moving in the right direction.”
A new budget will be unveiled in a few weeks. Neighboring Vermont ranks 11th among states in funding for smoking cessation programs... again, Vince Willmore. "Vermont is providing about 4 million this year, which is a little over a third of what the CDC recommends, so Vermont could still be doing better, but it is doing better than most states."
Willmore says Massachusetts is falling on the list, currently ranking 36th in the report. "Massachusetts took a big step forward this year with another dollar cigarette tax increase. But Massachusetts is falling way short in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. This year Massachusetts is only providing 4 million dollars for tobacco prevention programs, and that's just about 4 per cent of what's needed, so Massachusetts needs o do a whole lot better."
The Coalition for Tobacco-Free Kids report [A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 13 Years Later] concludes that states are "penny-wise and pound-foolish" in underfunding prevention and cessation programs despite evidence that the TV ads, telephone quit lines, counseling and more all work to help smokers quit or to encourage youths not to start. The report says tobacco is blamed on 400,000 deaths a year nationwide and consumes $96 billion in health care spending annually.