The Troy Record: Lung Association: State gets failing grade on tobacco control

(January 12, 2010)

troy record logo

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

By The Record

ALBANY — The American Lung Association in New York today underscored key findings from the 2009 State of Tobacco Control Report which show that New York State is a leader among states when it comes to protecting its citizens from secondhand smoke, but is desperately in need of improvement when it comes to funding state tobacco control efforts and smoking cessation programs.

"More than 25,000 New Yorkers die each year from tobacco-related illnesses and many more suffer from tobacco-caused diseases that diminish their quality of life," said Scott T. Santarella, President and Chief Executive Officer. "The 2009 State of Tobacco Control report, which pegs the economic cost of smoking to our state to be over $14 billion, should be a real call to action for New York state legislators to finally enhance lifesaving tobacco control programs that ultimately save money."

The annual report card, published by the American Lung Association, grades the strength of each state's and federal government's laws to protect its citizens from tobacco-related illnesses. While the state's "F" letter grade for tobacco control funding was unchanged from 2008, the state actually fared worse in this category by dramatically reducing program support and further widening the gap between actual and recommended funding. Consequently, the state was branded with an additional "thumbs down" in this year's report.

Similar to last year's report, New York received mixed grades overall scoring highest among states in categories assessing smokefree air laws and cigarette tax rates, and lowest when evaluated on tobacco control funding and coverage of smoking cessation and treatment services.

New York State's grades in the State of Tobacco Control 2009 report are as follows:

Tobacco Prevention and Control Spending: F

In 2009, New York State committed $57 million in funding for tobacco prevention and control – which is a mere 22.4% of the $254.3 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a significant reduction from the $81.9 million that state provided for these programs in 2008.

Cigarette Taxes: A

For the second year in a row, New York state received an "A" for its excise tax on cigarettes which is $2.75 cents per pack. While New York was the leader in tobacco taxation in 2008, New York has now fallen behind Connecticut and Rhode Island whose taxes are at or above $3.00 per pack. Note: New York City has its own additional $1.50 tax on cigarettes, tax on cigarettes sold in the five boroughs totals $4.25.

Smokefree Air Laws: A

New York State has had comprehensive smokefree legislation in effect since 2003. Since there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, the Lung Association continues to advocate for laws that minimize exposure to secondhand smoke.

Coverage of Cessation Services: F

There are far too many barriers to smoking cessation coverage in New York which stand in the way of helping smokers successfully quit. Barriers include limits imposed on the number of quit attempts covered per year and a lack of individual and group coverage under Medicaid. A comprehensive analysis of New York's cessation coverage is available at
http://www.lung.org/assets/documents/publications/other-reports/smoking-cessation-report-2009.pdf.

Tobacco-related illness remains the number-one preventable cause of death in New York and in the U.S. claiming more than 25,000 New Yorkers' lives and 393,000 American lives every year. Tobacco-related illnesses also cost our nation $193 billion annually. Almost 50,000 additional deaths nationwide are due to secondhand smoke exposure, for which the U.S. Surgeon General has declared there to be no safe level of exposure.

"In 2009, New York made real progress in making smoking more expensive and inconvenient by raising taxes on little cigars and increasing fees on tobacco retailers," said Michael Seilback, Vice President of Public Policy and Communications. "Nevertheless, it's absolutely essential that funding for tobacco control be increased. Governor Paterson has a real opportunity to help save lives and improve lung health by restoring vital funds to the Tobacco Control program in this year's budget."

The full New York State report card is available at:

http://www.stateoftobaccocontrol.org/2009/states/report-card.html?state=ny .

Complete report including federal and state grades available at:

www.stateoftobaccocontrol.org.