OSWEGO, NY – Promises from state leaders that monies from New York’s lawsuit against tobacco companies and from cigarette taxes would go to help the state’s smokers quit and to keep kids from smoking have gone “Up in Smoke,” according to a report issued this week.
That is a key finding of the report by the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association in NY, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, League of Women Voters/NYS and NYPIRG, said Abby Jenkins, program coordinator for Tobacco Free Network of Oswego County.
The report shows the state spends less than four cents of every dollar it raises from tobacco on anti-smoking programs. In addition to hundreds of millions of dollars that it receives each year from the Master Settlement Agreement, New York reaps nearly $1.5 billion a year through the highest cigarette tax in the nation ($4.35 per pack).
“Up in Smoke” wants the state to spend one dime of every dollar of revenue from tobacco on tobacco control, Jenkins said.
Although New York has raised $10.5 billion from tobacco sales over the past six years, less than four percent of that amount, $406.4 million, has been spent to fund the state’s anti-smoking efforts via the New York Tobacco Control Program.
Funding for this program has been cut in half over the past three years, Jenkins pointed out.
During the current fiscal year, New York will spend only 16 percent of the amount recommended by the CDC. When more adequately funded, the TCP achieved successes in the effort to curb tobacco use, especially in preventing young people from becoming smokers. Teenage and adult tobacco use rates have fallen faster in New York than in the U.S. as a whole.
“Says a lot about the work we do with the small amount of money we have,” Jenkins said.
In State Fiscal Year (SFY) 07-08, the New York TCP had a state appropriation of $85.4 million; currently, the SFY appropriation is $41.4 million, she added.
Between SFY 07-08 and SFY 11-12 there was a steady downward trend; there was a slight increase in SFY 10-11, but the program has still been cut by more than 50% since 07-08, she said.
The TCP operates in every corner of the state. The program works in local communities to give smokers the one-on-one assistance they need to quit. It funds youth smoking prevention groups; the Smokers Quitline, including free nicotine patches for those who want to quit; as well as hard-hitting effective media campaigns.
“It is concerning to experience such a large and disproportionate cut to a successful public health program,” Jenkins told Oswego County Today. “Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease, disability and death in New York State and the USA. Additionally, tobacco control has a more extensive set of evidence-based interventions and history of success compared with other public health threats. The CDC recommended funding level for the NYS TCP is $254 million. The ACS report ‘Up In Smoke’ has a great overview of the budget cuts (page 10 of the report).”
Link to the report: http://www.cancer.org/MyACS/Eastern/AreaHighlights/cancernynj-news-ny-tobacco-funds-up-in-smoke
“This past year alone, the Tobacco Free Network of Oswego County, our local program, received a 13% funding cut. In TFN’s case in particular this meant cutting a position and cutting back on our programming and media abilities,” Jenkins said.
But that isn’t the worst of it.
“In addition to cuts like our local program has seen, the NYS TCP had to end support for several tobacco-control supported initiatives including the Colleges for Change and Healthy Schools NY Initiatives. Additionally, there were very steep cuts to health communications (-57.4%), cessation interventions (-27.4%),” she continued.
In a county such as Oswego, where the smoking rate is above the state and regional averages, these cuts can severely hurt the the prevention and cessation efforts of the Tobacco Free Network and other tobacco control programs, Jenkins said.
In 2009, the NYS adult smoking rate was at 18%. In that same year, Oswego County’s adult smoking rate was 24.7%.
“Reduced funding for the Tobacco Free Network adversely affects kids in our community, specifically in regards to reducing point of sale tobacco marketing that targets youth as ‘replacement smokers.'” said David Canfield, county director of the Youth Advocate Program. “This reduction comes at a particularly inopportune time as many other programs are being cut and prevention efforts are becoming limited.”
To put this in perspective, the tobacco industry spends approximately $1.1 million a day in New York State to promote its products and undermine public health efforts to educate the public about the harms caused by smoking, Jenkins noted.
“If the New York State Tobacco Control Program spent the same amount per day to prevent youth initiation of smoking and to provide cessation resources to current smokers, NYS TCP would run out of funds in 38 days, while the tobacco industry would still be going strong,” she said.
“Public Health officials across New York State are challenged daily to fight the messages that tobacco companies market to our young people in order to recruit new smokers. Our prevention programs need continued and sustained funding if we hope to keep kids from starting to smoke and help those that do smoke in their efforts to quit,” said Dr. Dennis Norfleet, director of Public Health for Oswego County. “Considering that 33% of Oswego County adults smoke, including 28.4% of pregnant women (highest in the region in 2008) and 75% of the women enrolled in the Pregnancy Care Assistance Program, continued funding for Oswego County’s Tobacco Free Network and prevention programs is imperative.”