Why is funding being cut to state's anti-smoking programs?
Posted at: 03/26/2013 5:57 PM
| Updated at: 03/26/2013 6:29 PM
By: Ray Levato | WHEC.com
If New York gets hundreds of millions of dollars each year from the big settlement with the tobacco companies, why is funding being cut again to the state's anti-smoking programs?
Each year, the state of New York gets about $800 million from that multi-state settlement reached in 1998 with the big four tobacco companies. You would think with that kind of money, there would be plenty to use for stop-smoking programs, but that's not how it works in New York.
The tobacco money goes into the state's general fund to pay off bonds. A spokesman for Governor Cuomo says that "as a result of the actions of prior administrations, the money New York receives under the settlement must go to pay debt service."
The attorneys-general of 46 states sued the big tobacco companies to recover medical costs to treat smoking-related diseases. In New York, the people who run the stop-smoking programs say their funding has been cut in half in the last five years - from $85 million in 2008 - the governor's next budget cuts it five percent more in 20130-14 to only about $40 million.
"We should be thinking to put more money into tobacco control programs," says Dr. Scott McIntosh of the Greater Rochester Area Tobacco Cessation Center, one of 19 such facilities across the state. He says less funding could mean fewer TV commercials which encourage people to stop smoking. "These commercials are very impactful. They're not everybody's cup of tea. But when people are ready to quit smoking, that's often the thing that will get them to call the quit line."
Sen. Chuck Schumer, (D) New York, in Rochester Tuesday, said "I think tobacco cessation is one of the best programs we have because it saves huge amounts of money down the road. The amount of lung cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other serious illnesses are reduced when people stop smoking, when people don't start smoking, when people reduce their smoking. So I think it's penny wise and pound foolish to cut these funds."
And Dr. McIntosh says less funding could mean they won't be able to give out 2 weeks of free patches that help smokers quit. "People often think of it as just a habit and certainly smoking is a habit. You do something 40 times a day, there's a habit component. But the real message to get out there is it's an addiction. It's one of the hardest addictions to beat. But the good news is there is treatment available, and with proper funding, that treatment will continue to be available."
You can access the smoking cessation program at NYSmokeFree.com. And the "I Quit" hotline is 1-866-NY-QUITS.
The American Lung Association hands out a report card on this and they give the state an "F". Under federal guidelines, the lung association says New York should be spending six times what it does for stop-smoking programs. Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer.
A spokesman for Gov. Cuomo says "In tough fiscal times, this year's budget continues the Governor's initiative to expand Medicaid coverage of smoking cessation programs to all adults, while continuing to reform our state's health care spending to ensure that New Yorkers are receiving better and more efficient services at less cost."
State sen. George Maziarz says will have taken in about $25 (B) billion from the tobacco settlement by 2025.