Public health groups condemn Paterson’s cut to Tobacco Control Program

(December 2, 2009)

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25,500 New Yorkers lose their lives each year due to cigarette use, yet DRP cuts lifesaving Tobacco Control Program by more than $10 million

Today, Gov. David Paterson and the State Legislature put the health of all New Yorkers at risk by cutting the Tobacco Control Program (TCP) appropriation by $10 million and mandating a clawback of 12.5 percent of program funds not expended by Nov 1.  This clawback may well total another $5 million.  Today, the effective TCP budget is $53 million, a 38 percent reduction from what it was two years ago.

Public health groups sharply criticized the move as irresponsible and shortsighted and warned such action could result in higher smoking rates and ultimately higher healthcare costs to the state due to tobacco-caused illnesses.

The Tobacco Control Program saves lives and money by reducing the number of adults who smoke and the number of children taking up this deadly habit.  As a result of the TCP, smoking rates among adults and kids in New York have declined faster than the rest of the nation.  Even as the national rate of child smokers increases, New York's dropped to 13.8 percent – well below the national average of 20 percent.  Today, 16.8 percent of adults in New York smoke, compared to 21.6 percent in 2003.

"The NYS Tobacco Control Program is not a cash cow and is taking an unfair hit in this round of mid-year budget cuts," said Donald Distasio, CEO, American Cancer Society of NY & NJ.  "Reducing tobacco use is a commitment, one that just can't be made when it's convenient and tossed aside when times are tough.  This program saves the state money over the long haul, slashing it will cost taxpayers dollars and some New Yorkers will pay for these cuts with their lives."  

"New York has gone from being the nation's leader in tobacco control to taking action to decimate this program and its progress.  The cut to the tobacco control program could mean death, literally.  Add to that the health costs resulting from chronic illnesses caused by smoking, and this cut is no saving at all.  Clearly, the best way to reduce healthcare costs is to invest in programs to keep our residents healthy," said Julianne Hart, NYS Director of Advocacy for the American Heart Association.

“New York State received an ‘F’ on the Lung Association’s annual State of Tobacco Control report when it came to grades on tobacco prevention and control spending,” said Michael Seilback, Vice President of Public Policy and Communications at the American Lung Association in New York.  “When funding is already inadequate, it’s discouraging that New York State is further reducing its commitment to helping smokers quit.”