Legislators, health groups say NY anti-smoking programs underfunded; Cuomo admin points to success

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ALBANY-- As some legislators try to increase funding for smoking cessation programs to federal recommendations, the Cuomo administration says the proof of its programs is clear in smoking reduction statewide.

Assemb. Andrew Hevesi (D-Queens) sent a letter March 31 to the state Health Department requesting a required report for 2013. The annual report is supposed to evaluate the state’s anti-smoking programs. Hevesi also said the 2012 report was provided by the state Health Department more than a year late.

Hevesi said his Oversight, Analysis and Investigations Committee found the independent company hired by the state to do the studies is no longer under contract.

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Hevesi’s letter was released as the New York Public Interest Research Group, the American Cancer Association, the American Heart Association and other groups supported a legislative effort to increase funding for anti-smoking programs.

Assemb. Marcos Crespo (D-Bronx) and state Sen. Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) said program funding is just $39 million now, down from $85 million in the 2006-07 fiscal year. They said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommend the state spend $203 million based on its population.

The state Health Department said smoking has declined 56 percent since 2000 among high school age New Yorkers, while smoking among middle schools dropped 70 percent during that time. Meanwhile, adult smoking is down 33 percent since 2001.

New York laws that banned smoking in most public buildings, compelling TV and radio ads and high taxes had often led the nation during that time.

“Tobacco control is a priority for New York state,” according to the Health Department’s statement. “In 2013-2014, the Department used its state appropriation of $39.3 million to implement its policy-driven program as efficiently as possible and in every corner of the state to benefit all New Yorkers.”

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