Lung Association Applauds Tobacco Control Efforts in Governor Paterson's Executive Budget Proposal

Budget Restores Needed Funds to Tobacco Control Program, Includes Tobacco Tax Increase

ALBANY, NY (01/19/2010)(readMedia)-- The American Lung Association in New York today applauded Governor Paterson's proposed 2010-11 Executive Budget for its strong commitment to tobacco control. The budget includes a restoration of funds to the state's Tobacco Control Program and adds a new $1 per pack tobacco tax that would bring the total state tax to $3.75 per pack. If adopted, New York would return to its position as a national leader in tobacco taxation, which is one of the most important elements of effective comprehensive tobacco control policies.

"Today's budget announcement shows that New York can once again become the national public health leader in tobacco control, "said Scott T. Santarella, President & CEO of the American Lung Association in New York. "When more than 25,000 New Yorkers die each year from tobacco-caused illness, this funding is especially critical. Increased tobacco control funding coupled with an increase in the tobacco tax will lead to fewer children becoming smokers and will encourage greater numbers of current New York smokers to quit."

Santarella pointed out that the funding for the Tobacco Control Program was slashed earlier this year to $55.1 million as part of the state's deficit reduction plan. This action brought funding to less than 25 percent of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended. It also earned New York a grade of "F" in the Lung Association's 2009 State of Tobacco Control Report which was released last week.

Today's proposed restoration to $63.4 million is a step in the right direction and would have a positive impact on the state's efforts to reduce tobacco use and tobacco-related health care costs.

The Lung Association continues to support the collection of the tobacco tax and is hopeful additional steps will be taken to ensure the taxes on cigarettes sold to non-Indians on the state's Native American reservations are collected. Such a plan would help keep cigarette prices uniformly high and provide needed revenue for healthcare efforts.

The Lung Association also expressed gratitude that important funding for childhood asthma programs was maintained in the Executive Budget. Over 375,000 New York children struggle with asthma daily: it is crucial that these vital programs are fully funded.

The Association had a mixed reaction to language in the budget which will finally bring the state closer to full implementation of the New York State Diesel Emissions Reduction Act. This law mandates that all state-owned and operated heavy duty diesel vehicles are retrofit with the best available technologies to reduce harmful tailpipe emissions. Under the provisions of law, all of these vehicles must be retrofit by December 31, 2010. The budget proposal included language which will allow for limited waivers for older diesel equipment which will be retired from service within three years.

"Diesel exhaust particles contribute to the formation of ozone or smog which is a respiratory irritant linked to both premature death and increased asthma episodes," said Michael Seilback, Vice President of Public Policy and Communications at the Lung Association. "When we consider that more than 12.5 million New Yorkers already live in communities with failing air quality, it's imperative that we not only fully implement this law, but that the Legislature ensures that a Diesel Emission Reduction Fund is created so that even more important diesel pollution cleanup can occur."

"The Lung Association is pleased that Governor Paterson's budget protects the lung health of New Yorkers," said Santarella. "We implore the Legislature to support the important tobacco control initiatives the Governor proposed today."