Kingston Daily Freeman (Letter to the editor): Wise investment

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dear Editor:

Your editorial (Nov. 29; http://ow.ly/3k8LS) provides a good overview of the challenges faced by tobacco control advocacy organizations, including the American Lung Association, to help smokers quit at a time when funding is severely limited.

While you make a valid point that the onus is on organizations like ours to find creative ways to reach the public with our message, it fails to acknowledge that investing in helping smokers quit actually saves money for states. Tobacco control funding is a wise investment regardless of economic conditions.

In September, the Lung Association released a report conducted by researchers from Penn State University. It found that smoking costs New York more than $20 billion annually in direct health care expenditures, workplace productivity losses and premature deaths. It also found that by  providing smoking cessation treatments, the state could potentially save more than $58 million per year and earn a return of $1.34 on every dollar invested.

In our 2009 State of Tobacco Control Report, New York earned an “F” for both tobacco prevention and control spending and coverage of smoking cessation treatments.

While the Lung Association’s main objective is to save lives by preventing lung disease and improving lung health, it turns out that fulfillment of our mission through investment in tobacco control and cessation services also happens to save the state money. Helping people quit smoking is not only the right thing to do; it’s the fiscally sound thing to do.

SCOTT T. SANTARELLA

White Plains

The writer is president/CEO of American Lung Association in New York.