Anti-smoking programs fight funding cuts

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Friday, January 27, 2012 | Erin Vannella | Categories:
Smokers trying to quit may get less help from the government if state lawmakers stick to their proposed budget cuts. As our Erin Vannella reports, anti-smoking groups say it's not fair. ALBANY, N.Y. -- "The tobacco control program is an evidence based program and we know that it will reduce smoking rates," said American Heart Association Director of Government Relations Julianne Hart. But Governor Cuomo wants to pull $5 million budgeted dollars from the program that's already seen significant cuts, a move American Heart Association representatives call counterproductive. "It simply doesn't make sense," said Hart. "If you want to raise the tax so that people will quit smoking for people's health, then you have to give them the tools they need to quit." The state budget office is the first to admit that the tobacco control program's efforts thus far have helped cut the rate of smoking among high schoolers by more than half and reduced adult smoking by nearly 30 percent. But with funds at a premium, budget division spokesman Jeffrey Gordon said the state can't keep up. "As funds have been reduced to address the state's fiscal challenges, the state continues to implement targeted tobacco control strategies to reach populations where smoking is still prevalent through data-driven approaches designed to maximize the impact of our investment." But Hart said that may just incur more health care costs later. "Tobacco control can't be viewed as a cash cow, you have to look at it as, if you want to improve people's health, you have to make that investment." Gordon said, "Remaining funds will be targeted to achieve the maximum benefit in reduced health care costs. Funding is expected to be maintained for smoking cessation centers." Hart hopes it's enough. "Poorer populations, those with lower education levels, there's gaps there and we haven't been able to reduce the smoking rates in those areas so there's still a significant amount of work to be done."
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