Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his budget. In previous budgets, successful health awareness and prevention programs were funded as line items in the budget. The Governor’s new proposal lumps the tobacco control program budget into one pool for chronic disease and prevention. That means that we would essentially need to compete with other important and successful health programs for fewer vital resources.
The proposed budget would make the funding of these programs less transparent to taxpayers and ultimately reduce aid. Consolidating budget lines as Cuomo suggests gives the Legislature less power to add or subtract funding under state law.
While we understand that times are tough, we think transparency goes a long way. A budget clearly states an administration’s priorities, and the NYS Tobacco Control Program is no longer a line item on the proposed budget. While we have had tremendous gains in reducing smoking rates, we fear they may stall without a strong commitment to saving dollars and lives.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have written Governor Cuomo a letter urging him to restore transparency to the budget and ensure adequate funding for the Tobacco Control Program.
We’ve come a long way, and our success proves we know what works.
Teenage and adult smoking rates have fallen faster in New York than in the U.S. as a whole. In 2010, 12.6 percent of teenagers, and 15.5 percent of adults, were smokers. Between 2005 and 2010, the number of smokers in New York fell by 700,000.
While we’ve made great strides, approximately 12.6 percent of high school students smoke while 18 percent of adults are still smoking. And smoking continues to kill 25,500 every year.
Reduced funding would not only lead to higher smoking rates, but would also increase our health care and Medicaid costs.
Since 2009, funding for the tobacco control program has already been cut in half, in spite of the fact that New York State takes in $2 billion annually in tobacco revenues.
Based on the state’s population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends New York spend $254 million on tobacco control and prevention. Last year, New York spent only about $41 million.
Tobacco control saves lives and money. With the limited number of prevention dollars that already exists, the Governor’s proposed consolidation of prevention programs may mean fewer dollars invested in health.
Supporting the Tobacco Control Program is an investment in New Yorkers’ health and our future. We are committed to lowering smoking rates in NYS and believe that our youth, the future of our state, should not be lured into a lifetime of addiction.