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Restore funds to help smokers kick the habit

Years ago, there was a famous infomercial about a cooking device. The slogan was “set it and forget it.” Sadly this also appears to be the policy New York is adopting when it comes to the state’s Tobacco Control Program.

New York has set up a world-class program to help people quit smoking that has contributed to a steady decline in the number of tobacco users in the state. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new budget plans would continue the trend of forgetting that the program still needs to be funded. This critical project has lost 50 percent of its funding over the past few years, despite the state reaping $2 billion annually from tobacco revenues. Most hard hit are the program’s outreach and advertising efforts, which drastically limits the visibility of these services to smokers in need of help.

Now that these cuts are taking hold, we’re starting to see the negative results. According to a startling new report, calls to the Quitline from Erie County residents dropped by 54 percent last year. Niagara saw a similar drop of 51 percent. In fact, every county in Western New York, known to have some of the highest smoking rates in the state, had a more than 50 percent drop in calls to the Quitline. What this suggests is that far fewer people are getting the help they need to quit smoking. All this will only get worse if the program is cut further by the governor’s latest budget plan. More cuts will mean one thing – more devastation caused by cancer, more suffering and more premature death from smoking-related illness. This lifesaving program needs an increase in funding, not a cut.

Gretchen Leffler

Regional Vice President, American

Cancer Society, Amherst