Cuts to tobacco control

By Megan Carpenter

December 12, 2013 Updated Dec 12, 2013 at 7:54 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) New York state ranks 21st in the nation in tobacco use prevention, but the Tobacco Control Program said that rank needs to increase. To do that, they're going to need more funding.

The Broome-Tioga Tobacco Free Program said their funding has been cut by more than half since 2006. That's especially affecting their main target: Teenagers.

Almost 12 percent of high school kids are smokers. Because of funding cuts from the government, the Tobacco Control Program has cut out several programs it has used to catch kids before they start smoking.

That includes efforts to work with colleges to create more smoke-free campuses, or with landlords to develop smoke-free housing.

"That is more of a systems change, or an environmental change that impacts larger groups of people," said Sharon Fischer, a public health educator for the Tobacco Control Program.

Providing education to certain population groups is also on the decline due to funding cuts. Fischer said people living in poverty are some of the most frequent smokers and in greater need of anti-smoking education.

"It’s a challenge for all of us to continue to maintain high quality programming, which we do," Fischer said, "A program that’s shown time and time again to give a great return on investment."

Tobacco Control said New York State spends about $8 billion each year treating tobacco-related illnesses.

"So much more money is spent to treat illnesses than we actually get in taxes," Fischer said.

Almost $3 billion of that is Medicaid money, which comes out of taxpayers' pockets.

The tobacco tax rate is just more than four percent. It's a method President Obama has put into place to deter young people from picking up the habit.

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