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New York Would Hit Public Health Trifecta With Governor Pataki’s Tobacco Prevention Proposals

Statement of William V. Corr Executive Director, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
January 13, 2006

Washington, DC — We applaud Governor George Pataki for continuing New York's national leadership in fighting tobacco use by proposing a budget that would increase the state cigarette tax by $1 per pack and, for the first time, fund the state's tobacco prevention program at the $95 million minimum level recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We urge the Legislature to quickly approve these proposals. If these proposals are adopted, New York would hit the public health trifecta and become one of the few states that have implemented all three of the best proven policies to reduce smoking: a high cigarette tax, fully funded programs to keep kids from smoking and help smokers quit, and a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law that includes restaurants and bars. New York’s commitment to fighting tobacco use - the leading preventable cause of death - will deliver benefits for generations to come by improving health, saving lives and saving billions of dollars by reducing tobacco-related health care costs. It is also setting an example for the nation and every state to follow.

While tobacco taxes, well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and smoke-free laws are each effective on their own, the science is clear that they are most effective when implemented together in a comprehensive approach to reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. While New York has made significant progress already in reducing tobacco use, it can look forward to even greater progress by adopting Governor Pataki’s proposals and continuing to fully fund its tobacco prevention and cessation programs at CDC-recommended levels in the future. These programs are the equivalent of a vaccine that prevents kids from smoking and help smokers quit, but they must be provided to every generation to continue to be effective.

The evidence is clear that increasing the price of cigarettes is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among children and pregnant women. Studies show that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by seven percent and overall cigarette consumption by three to five percent. Preliminary evidence confirms that every state that has significantly increased its cigarette tax in recent years has enjoyed substantial increases in revenue, even while reducing cigarette sales.

The proposed $1 per pack cigarette tax increase would bring New York’s total tax to $2.50 per pack (New York City’s tax will remain at $3.00 per pack) and would prevent some 98,000 kids alive today from becoming smokers, save 44,500 New Yorkers from smoking-caused deaths, produce $2 billion in long-term health care savings, and raise roughly $252 million a year in new revenue. If Governor Pataki’s proposal is enacted, New York will join the five states - Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Washington - that already have cigarette taxes of at least $2.00 per pack.

It is only appropriate that New York use a significant portion of the billions of dollars in revenue it is collecting from tobacco taxes and tobacco settlement to fund programs to keep kids from smoking and help smokers quit. New York has done better than most states in keeping the promise of the tobacco settlement to fund such programs, but it is still funding its prevention and cessation programs at less than half the minimum level recommended by the CDC. Governor Pataki’s budget would increase funding to the $95 million minimum recommend by the CDC, which will prevent many more kids from smoking and help many more smokers to quit. This proposal is critical because the tobacco companies are spending a record $516 million a year in New York to market their products, often in ways that appeal to children.

Tobacco prevention and cessation programs, smoke-free workplace laws and tobacco tax increases not only reduce smoking and save lives; they are also part of the solution to the skyrocketing health care costs, especially under Medicaid, that are placing such a burden on state budgets. Tobacco costs New York $7.5 billion a year in health care bills, including $5 billion under Medicaid. The average New York household pays $842 a year in taxes because of smoking-caused government expenditures. Businesses pay even more because of higher health insurance costs and lost productivity.

Despite New York’s progress in reducing smoking, more than 35,000 New York kids still become regular smokers and tobacco use still claims more than 25,000 lives in the state every year. We urge New York legislators to follow Governor Pataki’s lead and approve these proposals in order to reduce tobacco’s terrible toll and create a healthier future for all New Yorkers.