Health groups and advocates today called on the Legislature to increase anti-tobacco funding and reject the governor’s program cuts to help decrease the number of smoking-related cancer deaths in the state.
Almost 10,000 people died in 2009 from cancers related to smoking in New York, according to a report from the American Cancer Society. That accounted for more than one in four cancer deaths statewide — out of a total of 34,916 that year, the report said.
“This report documents for the first time the amount of cancer deaths in New York that are caused by smoking,” said Blair Horner, vice president for advocacy at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “It’s not just lung cancer, there is a listing of about 10 various cancers in the state.”
The total number of cancer deaths from smoking were 9,610 in 2009. Lung and bronchus cancer had the highest number of smoking-related deaths at 7,115, the report said.
Other cancers that were smoking related include esophageal, pancreatic and urinary bladder cancer, with a total of about 1,400 deaths in the state. A small number of deaths from oral cavity, larynx, kidney and stomach cancers were also tobacco-related, the group said.
The American Cancer Society said the funding for the state’s Tobacco Control Program has been cut from $85 million in 2006 and 2007 to about $41 million in 2012. The program helps smokers to quit and funds smoking cessation campaigns.
“A shrinking percentage of the money that the state brings in from tobacco taxes and other revenues is being devoted toward tobacco control programs,” Horner said. “The program that helps smokers to quit and not have to pay those taxes has been cut in half, that seems fundamentally unfair.”
In the governor’s 2013-14 proposed budget, the funding for public health programs in Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis prevention and tobacco use prevention are included together. Horner said the three prevention programs are unrelated and should not be connected together in the budget. He said it looks more like a cut that is masked as a reform.
“Governor Cuomo’s budget appears to put New York’s tobacco control efforts in peril,” Horner said. “This report underscores our call for the state to bolster – not cut – its support for tobacco control.”
The American Heart Association wants state government to guarantee that the funds generated by the tobacco tax, which is the highest in the nation, is used to fund the programs that help curb smoking and increase public health. New York has a $4.35 per-pack tax on cigarettes.
“We have grave concerns with the governor’s proposal to consolidate these funds,” said Julianne Hart, government relations director for the Heart Association. “Consolidation will ultimately mean a cut to this life-saving program.”
Hart said the Tobacco Control Program was created in 2000 and since then the smoking rate among young adults has declined from about 27 percent to 12.6 percent.
There was no immediate comment from the governor’s budget office.