Lung Association says NY can do better in tobacco control

Jan 24, 2018

The American Lung Association says Albany lawmakers could be doing more to improve how the state controls tobacco use.

In its State of Tobacco Control Report, the Association gave New York State a mixed bag of grades on the annual report card.

On the better end of the spectrum is an ‘A’ Grade for smoke-free air and a ‘B’ for tobacco taxes.

“What continues to cause us the most concern and what thwarts our overall effort to save lives is the ‘F’ grade New York received for tobacco prevention and control program funding,” said Jeff Seyler, executive vice president of the Association’s northeast region.

New York and 40 other states received that ‘F’ grade for failing to fund their tobacco control prevention programs at even 50 percent of the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. Association Vice President of Public Policy and Communications Michael Seilback points out this year’s executive budget proposal from Governor Andrew Cuomo asks for the same level of funding as last year.

“But at $39-million, this program is drastically underfunded. We ask the state to consider using just a tiny portion of the two billion dollars that the state takes in from tobacco taxes and master settlement agreement dollars to make sure that they’re helping smokers quit, and prevent kids from starting.”

In the middle of the grades are a ‘C’ rating for access to cessation services, and a ‘D’ grade for the minimum age to smoke. With close to 95 percent of smokers trying their first cigarette before age 21, the Association is encouraging lawmakers to follow suit with some municipalities in the state and raise the minimum age to purchase to 21 statewide.

States including New York are also being encouraged to put more focus on populations disproportionately impacted by tobacco use, including those without health insurance or using Medicaid, Native Americans, the lesbian, gay, and bisexual population, and people with behavioral health conditions – all have rates of smoking beterrn 20 and 30 percent, compared with a rate of 16.5 percent among the general population.

Check out more details and the full State of Tobacco Control report here.

Follow WBFO's Avery Schneider on Twitter at @SAvery131.