As the Senate and Assembly prepare to release their one-house budget proposals, anti-smoking advocates are urging lawmakers to reject Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $5 million cut to the state’s Tobacco Control Program. Funding in the current fiscal year, which ends April 1, is $41.4 million. They are proposing that legislators boost funding to $54 million in the 2012-13 fiscal year.
Their push comes the same day U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin released a report on preventing youth tobacco use. More than 600,000 middle-school students and three million high-school students in this country smoke.
“Most New Yorkers, the U.S. Surgeon General and nearly 100 local leaders from across the state agree — stronger funding for New York’s anti-tobacco program must be a priority as lawmakers negotiate the final state budget,” said Russ Sciandra, the New York director of advocacy for the American Cancer Society of New York and New Jersey. “The importance of this program is obvious to a large majority of New Yorkers, so why is its future in question among state lawmakers?”
A case study on New York that’s included in the report said the state’s Tobacco Control Program, which began in 2000, along with New York City’s efforts since 2002, have helped reduce youth smoking.
“To maintain their effectiveness, such programs need to be funded according to CDC recommendations in a sustained manner and include policy change, such as creation of smoke-free environments that reinforce a nonsmoking norm,” the report said.
Cuomo told reporters this afternoon that the issue comes down to money, not the potential benefit spending additional money would have. “It’s a dollar thing. It’s cost,” he said.
For every tobacco-related death, two people under 26 become regular smokers, according to federal officials. Nearly 90 percent of them smoke their first cigarette by the time they’re 18. Roughly 75 percent of high-school smokers continue the habit well into adulthood. The younger people are when they start smoking, the more likely they are to become addicted and heavily addicted.
“The addictive power of nicotine makes tobacco use much more than a passing phase for most teens. We now know smoking causes immediate physical damage, some of which is permanent,” U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin said in a statement.
Lung damage from smoking is permanent, and substantial health risks like cardiovascular damage begin immediately in young smokers, the report said. The marketing and promotion of tobacco products totals more than $1 million an hour.
“Targeted marketing encourages more young people to take up this deadly addiction every day,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.