Gov. Cuomo Proposes Cuts to Anti-Smoking Programs
In this time of economic uncertainty, New York can take steps to prevent future skyrocketing health costs by investing in educational anti-smoking programs – not to mention that such programs can help save lives. In New York, powerful anti-smoking campaigns have resulted in historically low smoking rates for adults and teens, which are 16.8% and 8.2% respectively. But even in the wake of such a tremendous health victory, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling on the state legislature to further slash funding for anti-smoking programs.
In 2008, New York State spent $82 million on cessation programs, but now, due to the struggling economy, it spends a mere $41 million to actively educate smokers and non-smokers alike of the risks associated with tobacco consumption. This amount is hardly a drop in the bucket compared to the $254 million the Center for Disease Control believes New York should spend on anti-smoking programs. Yet Gov. Cuomo is proposing to cut an additional $5 million in funding for next year. U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin criticized such funding reductions in a new report released this month, the first to study youth smoking trends since 1994. The report found that 600,000 middle school-aged students and 3 million high school-aged teens are regular smokers.
Assembly Democrats are taking a stand against the proposed funding cut to anti-smoking programs by encouraging Speaker Sheldon to allocate the revenue from another Gov. Cuomo proposal – a tax on loose tobacco – towards anti-smoking programs. Gov. Cuomo’s office estimates that the new tax on loose tobacco would bring in $18 million in revenue, but his proposal would channel that revenue into a general state operations fund, much like the $2 billion that is currently brought in by New York’s cigarette tax, which is the highest in the nation.
Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, and it claims more than 443,000 American lives each year. For 20 years, the Reform Movement has placed Judaism’s preeminent concern for the health and well being of the human body at the center of our efforts to reduce tobacco use. The Union for Reform Judaism resolved in 1987 to take steps to diminish the amount of cigarette smoking within our own movement because of the belief that “Jewish tradition enjoins us to cherish life, nurture it, preserve it, and protect it.”
It is pointed out in the U.S. Surgeon General’s report that progress has been achieved in reducing tobacco use, but that “there still remain significant challenges.” Protecting current funding levels for cessation programs and also appropriating the additional revenue from Gov. Cuomo’s proposed tax on loose tobacco towards efforts to educate about the numerous risks associated with smoking could keep New York on track for even lower smoking rates. New York can once again be an example in curtailing tobacco use, if only it continues to recognize the important role anti-smoking programs play in decreasing smoking rates among adults and teens alike.