A Matter of Social Justice

Who’s still smoking these days?

Compared to the rest of the country, New York State’s overall smoking rate has dropped much faster than the national average. Despite this progress, health inequities still exist, and vulnerable population groups are  benefiting less from the progress the state has made.

At-risk populations in New York State (NYS) have benefited the least from declining smoking rates. They include residents who earn less than $15,000, have less than a high school education, and report poor mental health. However, declines in smoking rates between 2000 and 2010 were statistically significant for females, whites and those who reported good mental health. The disparities are clear.

A new video from Legacy shows that those who are below the poverty line have significantly higher smoking rates.

We need to focus our resources to bring down smoking rates among the poor and for those who still smoke.  We need to increase the overall funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which have been cut in half since 2009, and provide more targeted assistance to help low-income smokers quit.

Aside from not having access to health care, cessation programs or tobacco prevention programs, our state’s most vulnerable are lured into a lifetime of tobacco addiction by the tobacco industry itself. Big Tobacco’s marketing heavily targets low-income and minority communities to replace the smokers who keep dying from using their tobacco products.

We need to implement policies to reduce the tobacco industry’s ability to target low-income populations and protect their health. Also, with adequate funding, NYS would increase community education and youth outreach in the most vulnerable neighborhoods and improve the health of all New Yorkers.

Innovative solutions are needed to reach these groups. We believe all New Yorkers deserve the support and resources to quit smoking.

This is not a time for deeper budget cuts that certainly hurt the most vulnerable. This is a matter of social justice. And life and death.