Could the Governor's budget cut smoking assistance?

Posted at: 02/04/2013 11:46 PM
By: Lynette Adams

Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he will not raise taxes, But to close the state budget gap, some programs could face cuts.

Public health providers are watching the budget process closely. They fear cuts could be as deep as 10 percent across the board -- to programs that currently get  about $400 million dollars.

One of those programs in particular is smoking cessation, and cost of these cuts down the road could end up erasing any short term savings.

The state's smoking cessation program is possibly one of the state's most successful programs, reducing the numbers of smokers statewide to only 18 percent of the population. But the Governor's budget proposal could cut the very programs
That have helped smokers quit.

Those Smoking commercials are hard to forget, and some people say they're downright hard to watch. But that's the point. They're aimed at smokers. Doctor Scott McIntosh runs the Greater Rochester Area Tobacco Cessation Center.

“People respond to those when they're ready to quit smoking, or very close to making that decision. That's often what will get them to take the step,” Said McIntosh.

He and and others are concerned if the governor has his way, these commercials and a host of other programs will go away. 

The American Cancer Society which has been closely monitoring the budget process, says right now 89 public health programs are independently funded. But in this year's budget, they've been lumped into six different categories. Each program could have to fight for its share of the pie, including the smoker's quitline which produces these commercials.

“Decisions are made sometimes for short term gain. People feel like we've made good gains in smoking cessation we don't need to continue to put money towards that. But then those numbers are going to go back up quickly,” says McIntosh

News10NBC's Lynette Adams spoke with Rich Farrands, a smoker from Greece, to get his thoughts.

“Would you say it's one of the hardest things you've ever done in your life?, Said Adams. Oh yea, yea definitely,” said Farrands.

He thinks this is discouraging news. He's been trying to kick the habit for the past two years, and now thinks it may be time to get some help.

“The first thing I tried was the patches and that didn't work. I tried to quit cold turkey, right now I’m just trying to cut back so smoke less cigarettes each day and just decrease the amount.”

McIntosh says evidence shows the smokers quitline that provide free patches, the web site, cessesation centers across the state, help smokers quit.

We won't know the exact budget amount until we get closer to the vote. We did reach out to local lawmakers to hear their take on the Governor's proposal, but we did not hear back. The state legislature is scheduled to vote on that proposal the
third week of march.