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Mixed grades for New York in latest 'State of Tobacco Control' report

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The American Lung Association gives New York State a mix of grades, ranging from A to F, in its latest “State of Tobacco Control” report, released Wednesday.

The yearly report, for which 2022 marks its 20th edition, observes state government efforts to reduce tobacco use. It grades categories including public investment in cessation and prevention, access to cessation programs, public smoke-free policy, efforts to curb flavored tobacco use, and taxation of tobacco.

New York gets an A for its smoke-free policies,which include no smoking permitted in most public places. It earns a B for its level of tobacco taxation. The American Lung Association, in its report, recommends the state add an additional dollar per pack in taxes.

The state only earns a C for access to cessation services. The report recognizes the state for expanding access to smoking cessation counseling under Medicaid by adding additional health care providers including nurses, social workers, and psychologists. The Association also acknowledges the state’s focus on COVID prevention, but suggests more must be done with smoking cessation.

“The reason you see that grade drop down to a mid-level C, if you will, on is that the state could do more to pump up dollars into the state Quitline. And we see that in a lot of different states as well,” said Trevor Summerfield, Director of Advocacy with the American Lung Association in New York. “Certainly we want people to quit. But when we push for other policies, like eliminating flavors from the market, we need to make sure that the services are there on the back end, for those that want to quit. And funding for Quitline services could be increased in the state to improve that grade.”

The Association gives New York a D for its efforts to curb use of flavored tobacco products, and issues a failing grade for its level of funding for cessation and prevention.

Summerfield offers praise for the work of New York’s Tobacco Control Program, saying it has done a good job with the level of resources it receives. According to the report, the state has budgeted around $39 million for that program. New York gets an F, though, because the report suggests that funding level is far below what the program should be getting.

“That's significantly short of the Centers for Disease Control recommendation of around $203 million to be spent on this in New York, so you can see the disparities there,” Summefield said. “And that's not just from state funding, but it's also allocation from settlement funds, as well. Were only about 20% of those tobacco settlement funds go back into the Tobacco Control Program.”

Most states also received an F in that category.

The report also offers encouraging news on youth smoking. According to the New York Youth Tobacco Survey, tobacco product use among high school age youth dropped from 30.6% to 25.6% between 2018 and 2020. Cigarette smoking among high school youth dropped 91 percent since 2000 to 2.4% of that population in 2020.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.