New York State Tobacco Control Partners and youth supporters recently went to Albany for Legislative Day to focus not on their successes and the unmet needs in tobacco control efforts around the state, particularly among highest need communities.
Approximately 33.7 percent of those with mental illness, 27.5 percent with less than a high school education and 26.8 percent who earn less than $15,000 a year smoke cigarettes in the state.
Pittsford Sutherland senior Lauren Cybul received the 2018 New York State Advocate of the Year Award for her work against big tobacco.
“Today we celebrate the adult smoking rate dropping to an all-time low of 14.2 percent; however, there is much more work to be done in kicking this harmful and addictive habit,” said State Sen. Rich Funke, R-55th District. “That’s why I’m proud to stand with young people like Lauren, who are getting involved and working to make our community a better place by educating others on the dangers of abusing tobacco and nicotine.”
NYS Tobacco Control Partners contributed to the drop in tobacco use rates among adults and youth through evidence-based practices, policy-driven and cost-effective approaches to decrease youth tobacco initiation and support current tobacco users to quit. These approaches now are focused on communities and populations with high tobacco use rates, especially those with poor mental health, low education and low income.
“It is certainly critically important that we take the necessary steps to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease,” said State Sen. Joe Robach, R-56th District. “By working to prevent the number of young people who make the choice to smoke and limiting the effects of tobacco use in public, we can help to make our community and our state a healthier place for all.”
Another population that warrants attention is youth. While youth smoking rates have declined, electronic cigarette use among the state’s middle and high schoolers has doubled from 2014 to 2016, and studies show e-cigarettes can be a precursor to cigarette smoking in youth, even those who were not likely to smoke cigarettes.
“I see classmates using e-cigarettes much more frequently than regular cigarettes,” Cybul said. “As a Reality Check youth this is alarming, as my peers don’t realize that using these products are harmful.”
Staff members from the Smoking and Health Action Coalition of Monroe County recently educated lawmakers about their tobacco control work with local communities and health care organizations, including these critical areas of need.
“State-funded tobacco control programs prevent youth tobacco use and reduce adult smoking rates, and ultimately save lives and millions of state tax dollars,” said Joseph Potter, youth manager, Reality Check of NYS. “But, as this data about New Yorkers with low income, low education, mental illness and youth tobacco use show, when it comes to deadly and addictive tobacco use, the fight to save their lives isn’t over.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that tobacco control programs in the state be funded with $203 million, yet actual funding only totals $39 million. The health and economic burdens of tobacco use could be reduced if these programs were fully funded.
Annual health care costs directly caused by smoking in that state are $10.39 billion. This expense results in a tax burden of $1,488 for each household every year. There are 28,200 deaths in the state each year due to smoking, and thousands who are living with illnesses related to tobacco use.
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