ALBANY, NY (01/19/2012)(readMedia)-- While New York took steps forward in some areas to protect children and curb tobacco-related disease during 2011, it fell short in other areas, according to the American Lung Association's State of Tobacco Control 2012 report.
The Lung Association's report card on tobacco control, its 10th annual, monitors progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state levels and assigns grades to assess whether laws are protecting citizens from the terrible health burden caused by tobacco use.
"While some important steps were taken to expand tobacco cessation counseling offered to Medicaid recipients and some state and local laws were passed to protect more New Yorkers from secondhand smoke, the state took a major step backward by cutting funding for its Tobacco Control Program. An adequately funded program is vital to our overall effort to curb tobacco use and save lives," said Jeff Seyler, CEO of the American Lung Association in New York. "It's disappointing that just days before the release of this report giving New York a failing grade for inadequately funding its tobacco control program, the Governor proposes further cutting the program by $5 million."
Although youth and adult smoking rates have declined slowly over the past decade, the decline has been inconsistent. Tobacco use continues to reap a devastating toll. The adult smoking rate in New York is 15.5 percent. Each year, 443,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses and secondhand smoke exposure nationwide. In New York, tobacco causes an estimated 25,432 deaths annually and costs the state's economy more than $14 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity.
New York's budget for the Tobacco Control Program has been cut in half over the last three years. To get New York back on the right track, the Lung Association and other public health groups are asking the Governor, Speaker Silver, Majority Leader Skelos and legislators to restore the program's funding to $54 million in this year's budget. Funding could then be incrementally increased until it reaches the CDC-recommended level.
New York was issued the following grades in the Lung Association's State of Tobacco Control Report 2012:
Tobacco Prevention and Control Spending: F
Cigarette Taxes: A
Smokefree Air Laws: A
Coverage for Cessation Services: F
New York wasn't alone in falling short in its responsibility to enact much-needed laws and policies that save lives and reduce tobacco-related disease. In this year's report, six states received all F's and not a single state received all A's. In contrast, the federal government took steps to implement strong and effective action to protect people from tobacco.
"As a physician who has seen the pain of lung disease firsthand, I find it troubling that New York isn't investing more to help smokers quit," said Irwin Berlin, MD, board chair of the American Lung Association in New York. "All smokers need access to a variety of cessation tools and right now there are simply too many barriers to coverage. If we're going to save lives and prevent another generation of youth from smoking, there needs to be a real commitment to funding the effort."
"In the past year, funding cuts to the New York State Tobacco Control Program have impacted our ability to support community agencies to further cessation efforts on Long Island, " said Susan Kennedy, Director of the Tobacco Action Coalition of Long Island. "Due to cuts, we can no longer offer agencies NRT grant opportunities and have no other resources to offer. Cuts have also eliminated our ability to develop paid media to promote the NYS Smokers' Quitline and local cessation resources available to all residents. The bottom line is that these cuts are negatively impacting our ability to help smokers quit."
New York's Grades in Context: Other State Grades
Six states received all "F's." They were Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. Only four states, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine and Oklahoma, received all passing grades. No state received straight "A's."
The 50 states and the 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, to help smokers quit. These categories represent four proven policies to save lives and cut health care costs.
Many states regressed in 2011. No state passed a strong smokefree air law, and Nevada weakened its existing law. Washington virtually eliminated a tobacco prevention and quit-smoking program that was previously a national model. For the first year in recent memory, no state increased its tobacco tax significantly, and 13 states and the District of Columbia significantly cut or completely eliminated already meager funding of tobacco control and prevention programs.
The Lung Association report congratulates the federal government for taking action to carry out strong tobacco control policies, as it identifies a chasm between the progress achieved by the federal government and weak efforts by most states. Due to state's inaction, the tobacco industry has made inroads to fill the resulting void, attempting to exploit states' failure to act and marketing new products to addict Americans.
The federal government earned an "A" for U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco products; a "C" for coverage of tobacco cessation treatments under major federal healthcare programs; a "D" for the federal cigarette tax; and a "D" for signing but failing to ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international treaty.
"Combined resources at both the state and federal levels are needed if we're going to reduce the devastating toll tobacco inflicts," said Jeff Seyler. "This year New York's status quo grades of 2A's and 2F's clearly indicate that we need to see some major improvement. If my child came home with those grades, I'd demand improvement; and we need to demand improvement from New York's elected officials. Status quo grades in New York mean that 25,000 New Yorkers will die each year as a result of tobacco; it's clear these grades are unacceptable. We need Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Skelos to restore funding and expand coverage for cessation services this session."
About the American Lung Association in New York
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association in New York is the leading statewide organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is "Fighting for Air" through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the Lung Association, a Better Business Bureau Accredited Charity Seal Holder, or to support our work, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.alany.org.