Anti-smoking group gives New York a mixed grade

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State praised for taxes, laws, but rapped on prevention

By Heather Senison
hsenison@gmail.com

ALBANY – Despite the state’s increased focus on getting smokers to quit in 2008, the estimated economic cost of smoking was $14.1 billion, according to an American Lung Association study.

Each year, the association evaluates how successful the state’s smoking-prevention programs are in comparison with the amount of money the state spent on those who got sick from the habit. The economic costs include health care expenditures and productivity losses.

In this year’s study, New York did well in the areas of cigarette taxes and smoke-free air laws, but badly in the areas of improving coverage of services to help people quit and spending on tobacco prevention and control. The state provided $81.9 million for tobacco prevention and control, less than a third of the $254.3 million recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the report found.

“This is an updated and very realistic picture of where New York excels at tobacco control and where we have a lot of work to do,” said Louise Vetter, chief executive officer of the American Lung Association in New York.

There were 2.75 million adult smokers and 140,000 youth smokers in New York as of 2008, according to the association.

Smoking-related illnesses cause almost 393,000 deaths in America each year, the report said. More than 25,000 New Yorkers die from tobacco- related illness each year.

New York has one of the strongest clean indoor air laws in the country, and Gov. David Paterson signed legislation last year that enacted the nation’s highest cigarette tax, said Claire Pospisil, a state Health Department spokeswoman.

“Youth and adult smoking rates in New York are at their lowest levels on record. The New York State Smokers Quitline provides free smoking cessation services and nicotine replacement products,” she said. “We look forward to reviewing the report to help determine what steps, if any, are necessary to further reduce New Yorkers’ tobacco use.”

Quitline received more than 1 million calls and helped roughly 125,000 people quit in 2008, according to the state Department of Health.

The American Lung Association believes New York should step up efforts to help people quit, Vetter said.

Elmira Star Gazette

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