Advocates: Cuomo budget cuts anti-smoking effort 

Anti-smoking advocates said Tuesday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget would continue to cut help for smokers to quit, even as it takes advantage of their habit by raising the tax on cigars and loose tobacco used in rolled cigarettes.

On Tuesday the American Cancer Society and other groups said the latest proposed cuts by Gov. Andrew Cuomo just don't make fiscal sense because anti-smoking TV ads, smoking cessation kits and other measures curb smoking and save the state far more in health care costs.

The groups say that although there is an overall decline in smoking statewide, a state survey shows less educated smokers in parts of New York City and rural upstate haven't gotten the message. Advocates said these smokers need help through the compelling TV ads, free smoking cessation kits, the state smokers' telephone help line and neighborhood sites to provide counseling and other support.

"Tobacco control saves lives, tobacco control pays for itself," said Andrew Hyland, chairman of the Department of Health Behavior at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo and director of the state Smokers' Quitline.

State data provided by the groups including Reality Check and the Southern Adirondack Tobacco-Free Coalition showed just 12 percent of smokers earn $50,000 or more a year and the areas most resistant to quitting are the poorer neighborhoods of New York City and the rural areas of upstate. Statewide, college graduates account for 8 percent of smokers.

In addition, the only group of New Yorkers by education and income that didn't see a decrease in smoking from 2000 to 2010 were New Yorkers with less than a high school education, where .05 of 1 percent increased smoking.

Cuomo's budget would cut $5 million from the current $58.3 million for anti-smoking programs, with another $5 million cut projected for 2013-14. That would be the latest of several cuts to the programs that received $80.4 million in funding in the 2008-09 fiscal year.

Meanwhile, Cuomo also proposes to close what he calls a loophole to make sure loose tobacco and cigars are taxed the same as cigarettes, which should bring $18 million to the state.

Cuomo administration spokesman Jeffrey Gordon said the inroads have already been made in cutting smoking in half among high school students over the last 10 years, using $500 million in state and federal funds. Cuomo is proposing cuts this year to address the state's "fiscal challenges," while still targeting communities where smoking is still prevalent.

Russ Sciandra of the American Cancer Society called them "vicious cuts." He said a third of all new cancer cases and half of all deaths are related to smoking. He said

Meanwhile, the state has collected billions in cigarette taxes, the highest in the nation per pack, and billions more in the national settlement with tobacco companies.

The advocates said the anti-smoking programs are a frequent target because there is no well-funded lobby to protect them and once smokers quit, they don't usually rally around the programs. They drew parallels to other elements of Cuomo's budget that received cuts to programs without well-financed lobbying support including the Democrat's plan to delay half of a welfare grant increase, delay cost-of-living raises for some nonprofit social services workers and cutting funding for a program that serves low-income urban and rural neighborhood.

Pin It

More by The Associated Press

Latest in Health & Fitness

© 2018 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation