Posted by: audreybenenati | February 16, 2010

Taxing Times: State fiscal woes threaten programs and inspire ideas

By Leslie K. Holmberg

New YorkState’s fiscal crisis calls for judicious surgery, not wholesale cutting. Effective and efficient programs suffer the same fate as those that are not. Across the board cuts have proven to be short fixes that cause long-term problems. Case in point:

New York state has received yet another “F.” In this case, the “F” is from the American Lung Association. It has rated New YorkState’s Tobacco Control efforts an “F” in the areas of spending on prevention/control and spending on cessation coverage.

While the state is doing well in some tobacco control efforts, overall it is failing New Yorkers who continue to deal with the high cost of health care/Medicaid. The American Lung Association in New York estimates the economic costs to be $14 billion a year!

It doesn’t have to be this way, but recent cuts to the Tobacco Control program’s budget threaten its effectiveness. The program’s budget has been cut from $81.9 million in 2008 to $57 million — a small amount of money to counter the billions spent by Big Tobacco advertising and health care costs. (The CDC has recommended that the state fund the program at $254.3 million.)

The New York State Tobacco Control Program has made great progress. Smoking and tobacco use in general is down. This is especially true in our youth. This is very important, as most people start to smoke between the ages of 11 and 14. The addiction that occurs is very strong and difficult to stop — just ask anyone who has tried to quit. And this is the group that Big Tobacco continues to target.

The weaker our tobacco control program, the more active Big Tobacco becomes, and the more our children will suffer. Our physicians and other health care providers have more information on effective treatments and resources — and the data shows that they are helping their patients to quit tobacco. This program saves lives and money.

Contact your legislators in support of restoring some of the budget cuts that have been made. Take this opportunity to visit the New York State Quitline, or talk with a health care professional about giving yourself the gift of heart, or lung health, or the gift of life itself. It is never too early in the year to stop smoking.

Leslie K. Holmberg, RN, MS, CAS-Ed., is director of the New YorkStateTobaccoCessationCenter at St. Joseph’s Hospital.


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