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More funding needed to help smokers quit

You may or may not be aware that smoking prevalence has declined in New York overall, but disparities exist among different socio-demographic groups. The New York Tobacco Control Program’s mission is to reduce tobacco-related morbidity and mortality and the social and economic burden caused by tobacco use.

Smoking prevalence broken down by gender, race/ethnicity, education, income and mental health shows disparities in smoking prevalence among these different groups. Demographic groups who benefitted the most from tobacco control efforts with reduced smoking prevalence included females and males, whites, those with more education and higher income, and those with better self-reported mental health. Declines in smoking rates between 2000 and 2009 were statistically significant for females, whites and those who reported good mental health. The groups who benefitted the least included individuals with less than high school educations and those earning less than $15,000 per year. Individuals reporting their mental health as poor also saw little improvement in smoking rates. Innovative solutions are needed to reach these groups.

Residents still want and need our help. We can’t reach the individuals we need to reach because of diminished resources. Limited funding prevents the Tobacco Control Program from reaching the most vulnerable populations with the highest rates of smoking. Funding cuts have impacted our region. For example, cuts in the media advertising mean fewer ads, fewer calls to the NYS Quitline and fewer quit attempts.

Most smokers want to quit. The state generates more than $2 billion in tobacco revenues, but uses only a tiny fraction to help smokers quit. With adequate funding, New York could address the disparities and improve overall health for all.

Shannon Waddell

Project Coordinator Tobacco

Cessation Center-North, Buffalo