State Health Department, tobacco foes at odds on smoking rate figures
ALBANY - Tobacco foes say the smoking rates among adult New Yorkers are far higher than the national goal of reducing smoking to 12 percent of the population or less by 2010.
Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed 22.4 percent of adults in New York State were smoking every day or some days in 2002. Smoking among men (25.9 percent) was higher than among women (19.3 percent), the CDC report said.
Still, New York's smoking rate was better than the national median (23.1 percent) and 19th-lowest overall among the states.
Russell Sciandra, head of the Center for a Tobacco Free New York, said the latest statistics show the need to fund smoking prevention and deterrence efforts to the full extent recommended by the CDC. New York is currently spending $37 million on smoking cessation and prevention efforts, or less than 40 percent of what the CDC recommends for the state.
"We know what works to reduce tobacco use," Sciandra said. "Every state that has implemented well-funded, sustained tobacco prevention and cessation programs has seen dramatic declines in tobacco use, particularly among youth."
But the state Health Department, which quarterbacks anti-smoking efforts, said the CDC numbers are affirmation of the good job the state is doing.
"Our investments in tobacco prevention have been tremendous, as has been our success," said Health Department spokesman William Van Slyke. "The CDC report, in fact, is further reflection of our success, ranking New York well into the top half of the nation in terms of adult smoking."
According to Health Department numbers, smoking among eighth-graders fell by nearly 40 percent between 2000 and 2002 compared with a 26 percent drop in the nation as a whole. Over the same period, smoking among 12th-graders fell by nearly 29 percent, almost double the comparable national numbers.
Van Slyke said that since 2000, the state has spent $145 million on smoking cessation and control. The American Lung Association recently gave the state generally high marks for its anti-smoking efforts.
Sciandra, however, argued that New York is making only minimal progress toward cutting tobacco use. The 1991 CDC study of smoking prevalence among adults showed 24.2 percent of adults were smoking. Sciandra said New York should take its cue from California, which has had well-funded smoking deterrence programs for more than a decade.
In 1991, California had an adult smoking prevalence rate of 20.1 percent. In the latest survey, its rate had dropped to 16.4 percent.
Sciandra attributed improvements New York has made in fighting smoking mainly to increases in its tax on cigarettes, more than on state anti-smoking efforts. Between March 1, 2000, and April 1, 2001, the state's tax on a pack of cigarettes went up from 39 cents to $1.50.
Utah, where the anti-smoking Mormon Church is a major influence, had the lowest adult smoking rate at 12.7 percent, according to the CDC. Alaska (29.4 percent) had the highest rate of U.S. states, although the U.S. territory of Guam's adult smoking rate was higher, at 32.1 percent.
Among other Northeastern states, Pennsylvania had an adult smoking prevalence of 24.6 percent, Connecticut 19.5 percent, Massachusetts 19 percent, Vermont 21.2 percent and New Jersey at 19.1 percent.
Smoking kills an estimated 25,000 New Yorkers a year.