NY drops among states in anti-smoking funding

November 26, 2010

Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s budget cuts have left the Empire State ranked 18th in the nation in efforts to combat smoking by kids, with less money being spent on anti-tobacco TV ads and other programs, according to a survey by public health care groups.

“There is a direct relationship between spending on tobacco advertising and the decline in smoking,” said Russ Sciandra, director of the Center for a Tobacco Free New York. “There are some smokers who are ready to quit and when they see the spot they say, ‘OK, I’m going to do it.'”

The report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and other health groups found New York spent 23 percent under the level recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“New York has made tremendous progress in the fight against tobacco, but these gains could stop and even reverse unless state leaders increase funding for tobacco prevention programs,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “New York faces difficult budgetary challenges, but a failure to fund tobacco prevention would be penny-wise, pound-foolish and cost the state more in the long run.”

For Gov. David Paterson, he says it’s an agonizing problem. He has tried to frame much of his administration around two issues: Cutting deficits and promoting better public health for kids.

“New York’s severe fiscal difficulties led to cuts in many state programs, and the Legislature reduced funding for tobacco control media advertising,” said Jeffrey Hammond, spokesman for the state Health Department. “Our program was able to use federal funds to air two graphic commercials about the dangers of smoking, which led to a dramatic increased in calls to the Quitline.”

Hammond said that even with the budget cuts, the state is continuing with proven anti-smoking programs. He notes this year’s cigarette tax increase to the highest in the nation will deter adolescents from smoking, a major goal of the anti-tobacco program.

The public health groups realize their calls to stop cutting funding are similar to the cries of other special interest groups. The fiscal crisis has forced billions of dollars in cuts in most state spending, including schools and hospitals, and the next bite could come Monday in a special session of the Legislature called by Paterson to address the latest deficit.

Audrey Silk of the NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment said the ads aren’t effective.

“There is over-saturation now. It is money being thrown down a black hole,” she said. “I think the residents of New York state would prefer to see money spent on what affects them at this moment, not what might happen to someone 50 years from now.”

The public health groups argue their funding is an investment.

To read more, visit: http://online.wsj.com/article/AP09ce72ec7ead443189248834cc6227d7.html

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