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NY Gov. Cuomo’s Budget Cuts Anti-Smoking Effort, Says Advocates

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A woman smokes in a Times Square pedestrian island on September 16, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A woman smokes in a Times Square pedestrian island on September 16, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

CBS New York (con't)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Anti-smoking advocates said Tuesday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget would continue to cut help for smokers to quit, even as it takes advantage of their habit by raising the tax on cigars and loose tobacco used in rolled cigarettes.

On Tuesday, the American Cancer Society and other groups said the latest proposed cuts by Cuomo just don’t make fiscal sense because anti-smoking TV ads, smoking cessation kits and other measures curb smoking and save the state far more in health care costs.

The groups say that although there is an overall decline in smoking statewide, a state survey shows less the areas most resistant to quitting are the poorer neighborhoods of New York City and the rural areas of upstate.

New York City has been working hard in its fight against smoking. Numerous bans have been implemented to prevent smoking in city parks, beaches and pedestrian plazas.

There are also smoking bans on Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North platforms.

Back in Sept., Mayor Michael Bloomberg said there are 450,000 fewer adult smokers in New York City than there were nine years ago and that smoking by teens had also dropped to 7 percent, down from 18 percent in 2001.

Nevertheless, advocates said people who do smoke still need help through the compelling TV ads, free smoking cessation kits, the state smokers’ telephone help line and neighborhood sites to provide counseling and other support.

“Tobacco control saves lives, tobacco control pays for itself,” said Andrew Hyland, chairman of the Department of Health Behavior at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo and director of the state Smokers’ Quitline.

State data provided by the groups including Reality Check and the Southern Adirondack Tobacco-Free Coalition showed just 12 percent of smokers earn $50,000 or more a year. Statewide, college graduates account for 8 percent of smokers.

In addition, the only group of New Yorkers by education and income that didn’t see a decrease in smoking from 2000 to 2010 were New Yorkers with less than a high school education, where .05 of 1 percent increased smoking.

Cuomo’s budget would cut $5 million from the current $41.4 million for anti-smoking programs. That would be the latest of several cuts to the programs that received $80.4 million in funding in the 2008-09 fiscal year.

Meanwhile, Cuomo also proposes to close what he calls a loophole to make sure loose tobacco and cigars are taxed the same as cigarettes, which should bring $18 million to the state.

Cuomo administration spokesman Jeffrey Gordon said the inroads have already been made in cutting smoking in half among high school students over the last 10 years, using $500 million in state and federal funds. Cuomo is proposing cuts this year to address the state’s “fiscal challenges,” while still targeting communities where smoking is still prevalent.

Russ Sciandra of the American Cancer Society called them “vicious cuts.” He said a third of all new cancer cases and half of all deaths are related to smoking.

Meanwhile, the state has collected billions in cigarette taxes, the highest in the nation per pack, and billions more in the national settlement with tobacco companies.

The advocates said the anti-smoking programs are a frequent target because there is no well-funded lobby to protect them and once smokers quit, they don’t usually rally around the programs.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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