Jan. 19 2010
Washington, D.C. — The budget proposed today by Governor David Paterson will improve both New York’s physical and financial health by raising the state cigarette tax by $1 per pack and increasing funding by $8.3 million for the state’s highly successful tobacco prevention and cessation program. These measures are a win-win-win solution for New York: a health win, a financial win and a political win that is popular with voters. Together, these steps will continue New York’s dramatic progress in reducing tobacco use and its devastating toll in health, lives and health care costs. And the cigarette tax will raise much-needed revenue to help balance the budget and fund vital programs.
We urge the Legislature to join Governor Paterson in raising the cigarette tax and increasing funding for tobacco prevention programs. While the Governor’s proposal to increase funding for tobacco prevention is a positive step, the Legislature should go further and fully restore the $25.2 million that were cut from the program last year. These budget cuts severely undermined New York’s efforts to reduce tobacco use and put continued progress at risk. Even in these difficult budget times, tobacco prevention is a smart investment for New York that saves lives and reduces health care costs. To maximize the health and financial benefits, the Legislature should also increase tax rates on other tobacco products to parallel those on cigarettes.
New York has been a national leader in fighting tobacco use with well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs, a strong smoke-free workplace law and a cigarette tax of $2.75 per pack. As a result, New York has reduced its adult smoking rate to 16.8 percent and its high school smoking rate to 13.8 percent, both well below the national rates of 20.6 percent for adults and 20 percent for high schoolers.
But New York cannot let up in this fight because tobacco use remains the state’s number one cause of preventable death. The sad reality is that 25,400 New Yorkers die annually from smoking- related disease, and more than 20,000 New York kids become regular smokers each year. And health care costs associated with tobacco use in New York State amount to a staggering $8.2 billion annually.