Lung Association Gives NY High Marks for Cigarette Tax, Smokefree Air Laws; Failing Grades for Tobacco Control Funding & Cessation Coverage

(January 20, 2011)

New York State’s tobacco control policies received mixed grades in the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2010 report released today. While New York earned a top score for its smokefree air laws and even a “thumbs up” for returning its cigarette tax to the highest in the nation, the state failed to make the grade on both tobacco prevention and control funding and coverage for cessation services, earning an“F” in each category.

 “While we’re obviously pleased with the progress we’ve made in increasing the state tax on cigarettes and expanding smokefree 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. Too many New Yorkers continue to suffer from painful lung diseases and die as a result of tobacco use. We simply must do better.”

New York was issued the following grades in the Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control Report 2010:

Tobacco Prevention and Control Spending: F
Cigarette Taxes: A
Smokefree Air Laws: A
Coverage of Cessation Services: F

 

In 2010 the Lung Association in New York lobbied hard for the $1.60 per pack cigarette tax increase. 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 and doesn’t come close to meeting the recommended funding level set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

 

“Last year, more than 118,000 New Yorkers looking to quit couldn’t get the help they needed,” said Maureen Kenney, Director of the POW’R Against Tobacco/POW’R Cessation Center, a state-funded four-county tobacco cessation center covering Putnam, Orange, Westchester, and Rockland Counties.  “The tobacco industry is spending $800 million each year in New York to hook our kids on their deadly products.  It’s crucial that we have the funding we need to counter their messages and make sure our kids hear the truth about tobacco. We’re already fighting a battle in which we’re being severely outspent.  Reduced funding for tobacco control makes it that much harder.”

 

The state’s “F” grade for Cessation Services is a major disappointment in this report.  The CDC recommends states fund comprehensive tobacco cessations 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.  There are barriers in just about every plan including limits on duration or a cap on the number of quit attempts covered. The Lung Association issued a study earlier this year which found that for every dollar spent on smoking cessation, New York could earn a return on its investment of $1.34.

“As a physician who has seen firsthand the devastation caused by tobacco use in my patients, I find it surprising that the state insurance plans and even private insurers aren’t lining up to cover these services for their enrollees,” said Dr. Irwin Berlin, Chief of the Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine Division at Elmhurst Hospital Center and chair of the Board of Directors of American Lung Association in New York. “These are proven methods that not only save lives, but save taxpayers and insurers money. New York could be doing so much more to prevent escalating healthcare costs and save lives.  It generally takes person several tries before they finally quit smoking.   Cessation coverage needs to reflect this reality if we’re going to reap the health and financial benefits that come with helping people quit.”

 

                                 New York’s Grades in Context:  Other State Grades

Eight states – Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia – received all “F’s”, and no state earned straight “A’s” in State of Tobacco Control 2010.

 

The 50 states and District of Columbia were graded on tobacco prevention and control program funding; smokefree air laws; cigarette tax rates; and coverage of cessation treatments and services, designed to help smokers quit. These categories draw on four proven policies to save lives and cut health care costs.

 

New York was one of six states that raised cigarette excise taxes. Yet most of those smokers who ended up paying more for a cigarette pack got no return at all in terms of help to end their addiction.  South Carolina was a notable exception.

 

Only Kansas passed a strong smokefree 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. Additionally, New York has made significant progress on smokefree outdoor ordinances at the local level.

  

Federal Grades

 

The federal government received all passing grades. It drew a “B” for FDA regulation of tobacco products; a “C” for cessation coverage provided under four major federal health care programs; a “D” for the federal cigarette tax; and a “D” for failure to ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international treaty.

 

“To finally break tobacco’s grip on America’s health, it takes a harnessing of resources by every state as well as by the federal government,” said Charles D. Connor, president and CEO of the American Lung Association. “The annual report card spells out what we’re doing right and where we must work harder to achieve that vision.”

 

“The bottom line is that when states get failing grades, the result is human tragedy,” added Santarella. “This report card shows our state elected officials very clearly where they need to take action. In 2011, we need to expand tobacco prevention funding and give New Yorkers better access to quit smoking tools by expanding cessation coverage. That must be our emphasis.”