Tonawanda News: NY gets mixed grades on tobacco control

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January 20, 2011

New York state discourages smoking by charging the highest tobacco tax in the nation, but could do more to provide services for smokers who want to quit.

That’s according to the American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control 2010” report, released Thursday. In addition to praising New York for a substantial increase in the tax on a pack of cigarettes, the ALA report gives the state high marks for smoke-free air laws.

New York received an A both for cigarette taxes and air laws, and an F for both coverage of cessation services and tobacco prevention and control spending.

“While we’re obviously pleased with the progress we’ve made in increasing the state tax on cigarettes and expanding smoke-free areas, the reality is that more than 25,000 New Yorkers are still dying every year from tobacco-caused disease,” said Scott T. Santarella, president and CEO of the American Lung Association in New York.

“These poor grades mean that the state is failing to adequately protect the public health of its residents and that’s a tragedy,” he added.

Last year the Lung Association in New York lobbied hard for the $1.60 per pack cigarette tax increase. The organization says the tax increase is expected to save 31,000 lives and prevent 23,000 kids from starting to smoke. The Association also urged state officials to maintain funding for the state’s tobacco control program. The program has been slashed by more than 30 percent since 2007.

The state’s failing grade for cessation services is a major disappointment in the report, the Lung Association in New York says. The CDC recommends states fund comprehensive tobacco cessation services, which means coverage of all FDA approved tobacco cessation treatments and few or no barriers to accessing coverage.

In New York, most drugs are covered but counseling is limited or unavailable in most plans.

New York was one of six states that raised cigarette excise taxes.

Only Kansas passed a strong smoke-free air law in 2010. New York is one of 27 states that have passed comprehensive laws protecting the public and workers from the dangers of secondhand smoke. In addition, New York has made significant progress on smoke-free outdoor ordinances at the local level, the ALA says.

Both Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda last year passed ordinances banning smoking in several outdoor areas, such as parks, playgrounds and recreational fields.