ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A national coalition of anti-smoking advocates has ranked New York 21st among states in funding for smoking cessation programs.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids this month also included New York among states it said broke promises to use all or most of the money from the historic tobacco company settlement 15 years ago to combat smoking.
The group, funded by cancer and anti-smoking charities, reported this month that New York is spending about $40 million a year on tobacco prevention programs after annual declines during much of the last decade. That spending is about 16 percent of the $254 million in yearly funding recommended for New York by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The systematic dismantling of the state’s tobacco control program is having real-life consequences as fewer smokers are getting the help they need to quit, while paying the highest cigarette taxes in the nation,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Group.
Horner said the program has seen deeper annual cuts than most areas of spending in recent years. He said the fund has declined from a high of $85 million under Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2007 to just more than $39 million now.
Advocates for the program and others were encouraged earlier this month during Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first broad comments about his 2014-15 executive budget proposal due in January.
“There will not be cuts,” Cuomo said.
He didn’t want to go into detail about things like anti-smoking money because the budget proposal is still being crafted. And avoiding cuts, even in an election year like 2014, will be difficult. Cuomo has kept state spending growth under 2 percent since he took office three years ago. But he has a built-in increase for education — as much as 5 percent for the 2014-15 fiscal year. In addition, the roughly $135 billion budget must address a projected $1.7 billion deficit and fund the governor’s plans for a $2 billion surplus, which he wants to use to subsidize cuts in local property taxes.
Budget office spokesman Morris Peters said the growth of revenue in the state’s economic recovery compared with what was projected a year ago will build that surplus if fiscal discipline continues in spending and staffing. He said he couldn’t discuss a specific budget line such as one for smoking cessation programs.
The Coalition for Tobacco-Free Kids report concludes that states are “penny-wise and pound-foolish” in underfunding prevention and cessation programs despite evidence that the TV ads, telephone quit lines, counseling and more all work to help smokers quit or to encourage youths not to start. The report says tobacco is blamed on 400,000 deaths a year nationwide and consumes $96 billion in health care spending annually.
The report found that over 15 years, states have used just 2.3 percent of $390 billion in tobacco settlement money and tobacco taxes on programs to prevent smoking and other tobacco use. Much of the money went to states’ general funds and elsewhere.