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American Lung Association says New York needs to spend more to help people quit smoking

Dale M Moore

New York state received mixed grades in the annual American Lung Association report card.  But the advocacy group says more can be done to help people quit the smoking habit..

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in this country, in New York state that translates to about 25,000 people who die every year from smoking-related diseases. So while the state got good grades as far as smoke free air and the nations highest cigarette tax, it got failing grades when it comes to helping people quit.  

Among other things,  Jeff Seyler, CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast, says changes need to be made in health insurance policies to make it easier to quit.

"We need all health plans -- Medicaid, state employee health plans and private health plans -- to cover all seven cessation medications recommended by the CDC without barriers to access," said Seyler. "Considering it takes smokers several tries before he or she is successful in quitting, where they exist we want to remove barriers, like limits on the number of quit attempts, covered.”

The American Lung Association also notes that funding in New York state for smoking cessation programs has been dropping over the last eight years, and the group is asking for $85 million in spending this year for those kinds of programs.

“While New York is reducing its investment in prevention programs, big tobacco is spending almost half a million dollars a day in New York on marketing and introducing new products that are designed to hook our kids," said Seyler. "Time is of the essence and we need to see some real progress this legislative session.”

The association's report notes that 16.2 percent of adult New Yorkers smoke, while almost 12 percent of high school students light up, which is lower than the national average.

And Seyler says the impact of smoking reaches beyond those diagnosed with smoking-related illness.

“When we consider that the economic cost due to smoking is over $8 billion for health, and $6 billion in lost productivity  and other related matters, it’s clear the economic benefits of investing in tobacco prevention, goes beyond saving lives.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.