Kingston Daily Freeman: Doing the same with less

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Monday, November 29, 2010

We take no back seat to those who warn about the deadly consequences of smoking.

For years we’ve been using this space to rail about Big Tobacco, as well as to encourage efforts to combat smoking, particularly with educational initiatives aimed at young people.

So, by all means, count us among those who are disappointed to learn that the money New York state is spending to bolster anti-tobacco programs is dwindling.

But given the condition of this state’s finances, rather than dwell on what’s not to be, we urge the good people behind anti-smoking campaigns to figuratively hitch up their trousers and stay focused on the mission.

“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,” Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told The Associated Press. “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.”

Sure. And where will the money will come in a state whose taxes and fees are strangling people and businesses alike? You want to say anti-smoking programs are a priority over a variety of other worthy initiatives, OK, we can have that debate. But it says here none of them are going to be funded at their levels of expectation in this economic climate.

A report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association, among others, revealed New York is spending 23 percent below what is recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AP reported. (The state still is ranked 18th in the nation regarding such spending.)

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

Yes, yes and yes. We understand and we’re distressed by the implications of less expenditures. We realize less money spent today could mean more money spent later if smoking increases and public health care responsibilities rise as a result.

But New York is in a regrettable – and in many ways avoidable – financial bind that must be addressed. Indeed, if Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo is true to his word (and the dysfunctional Legislature comes to its senses), even more belt-tightening is in the offing.

So the onus is on anti-smoking organizations to be creative. They must find ways to spread the gospel in a less-lucrative environment.

If you’ve read letters to the editor in this newspaper, you must be familiar with the state’s smokers’ Quitline: 866-697-8487. Jot down that number and do a favor to yourself and your smoker friends and family, and use it.

When it comes to anti-smoking efforts, it’s grass roots time. It will be more difficult, for sure, but turning smokers into non-smokers can be accomplished one by one if we all work at it.