The American Cancer Society marked the Great American Smokeout last week on Friday, commemorating the four decades of the event. The Great American Smokeout, an annual event held every third Thursday in November, is a social engineering event officiated by the American Cancer Society to encourage more smokers to quit smoking. This year in New York, the American Cancer Society brought attention to the state spending less on smoking cessation programs.
Why the Spending Cut on Anti-Smoking Programs
American Cancer Society’s Michael Burgess pointed out that New York was once a leader in spending on smoking cessation programs, but it had cut its spending on these programs by half in the past years. Its spending on smoking cessation programs was at $85 million annually but currently it is at $39.7 million annually. The funding cut does not mean that the state is no longer supporting smoking cessation programs; to the contrary the cut is simply because of the drop in the number of smokers in the state.
However, Burgess felt that cutting the funding was the wrong approach and a few more millions should go into the programs to help existing smokers quit. He added that putting in more funds towards helping smokers quit would consequently bring down health care costs by an estimated $8 billion dollars. Burgess also said that Medicaid, which provides health coverage to the poor, would be able to save $2 to $3 billion annually if more funds were put towards helping smokers quit.
Fewer New Yorkers smoke now compared to back in the 1970s when anti-smoking efforts were introduced. Numerous laws placing bans on smoking in public spaces and indoors have also since been implemented leading to the great decline in smoking in the state. The percentage of smokers in New York’s upstate rural counties is at 18% with over 25% adult smokers. The percentage of smokers in downstate New York is much lower because the state has put in place the strictest anti-smoking laws in these regions. Burgess raised the concern that smoking remains prevalent within certain populations including among the youth, low-income earners and people with substance abuse or mental health problems.
New York’s spending on smoking cessation programs was at $85 million annually but currently it is at $39.7 million annually. The funding cut is simply because of the drop in the number of smokers in the state.
The State Department of Health in New York has been targeting populations where smoking is prevalent in their attempts to help smokers quit as opposed to using mass media campaigns. New York recently increased the legal cigarette buying age from 18 to 21, which the Cancer Society still hasn’t endorsed. Burgess explained that they were waiting to see the effects of the new measure. The state also listed as part of their goals curbing cigarette companies from marketing their products to teenagers, outlawing smoking at outdoor venues and placing a ban on smoking within public housing complexes to limit the effects of exposure to second-hand smoke.
The American Cancer Society will continue to lobby for more funds towards anti-smoking programs as well as boosting media campaigns to help smokers quit.