New York has tried taxing cigarettes out of existence.
That approach isn't working very well. Surveys and polls show about 29 percent of adults in Chautauqua County are current smokers, 8 percent more than the New York state average and 14 percent more than the state's target for smoking rates. Even more troubling are statistics provided by the Tri County Tobacco Control program which show those earning less than $25,000 a year, who can least afford to purchase high-cost cigarettes and pay for the health problems they cause, smoke at significantly higher rates than the rest of the population.
Those statistics come with a cost. According to the American Lung Association's State of Tobacco Control 2014 report, tobacco-related diseases - lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, other cancers, heart disease and stroke - kill almost 500,000 Americans each year. Annual smoking-related health care costs and lost productivity in NY total $14.2 billion while it costs about $8.17 billion each year in health care spending to treat afflictions caused by smoking.
According to the Chautauqua County Health Department's Community Health Improvement Plan for 2014-17, the Chautauqua County Health Network is partnering with the Roswell Park Cancer Institute on a two-part National Institute of Health study to provide and study the effects of services to county residents including a clinically-based smoking cessation program that uses reminder calls and a series of community-based workshops. It will include a workshop offered in Spanish. The improvement plan also includes a plan to disseminate materials developed by the Million Hearts program, which includes smoking cessation.
Chautauqua County is making strides in cutting the rate of those who smoke, but more has to be done. It would help if the state stopped cutting spending on tobacco control and programs that help people quit. This is one area where spending a few million dollars could save a billion.
The state Legislature should consider increasing funding to tobacco control and cessation programs in this year's state budget.