Quitting tobacco saves lives

OLEAN – This year marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health which first linked smoking to deadly diseases such as lung cancer and heart disease.

The report led to efforts across America to help people quit smoking and lead longer, healthier lives. The Tobacco Cessation Center at Southern Tier Health Care System reports that the good news is that the percentage of adult smokers in the U.S. has declined from 42 percent in 1964 when the report was released to 18 percent in 2012, the last year for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have accurate records.

Despite that progress, smoking is still the number one cause of premature death, claiming the lives of more than 25,000 New Yorkers each year. Everyone deserves to live a life free of the burden of disease and early death caused by tobacco. Smokers deserve resources and help to quit if they want to. And every child deserves protection from second-hand smoke and deceptive marketing designed to lure them into smoking.

New York is a leader in tobacco control with strong clean indoor air laws, the highest tobacco taxes in the nation; smoke-free outdoor laws, youth prevention initiatives and cessation programs that together have led to substantial reductions in smoking rates among adults and youth. But tobacco is still the number one cause of premature death in New York and a lack of resources for the state’s Tobacco Control Program threatens the progress that’s been made.

The American Lung Association gave New York State high scores (A) for smoke-free air and cigarette taxes, but low scores (F) for tobacco prevention funding and cessation coverage. At any time, more than half a million New Yorkers are suffering with serious diseases caused by smoking, costing more than $8 billion on health care, including $2.7 billion in Medicaid costs annually.

Help is available. Those who smoke and want to quit should talk to their doctor. Each year Medicaid covers two 90 day supplies of many stop smoking medications. Also call the New York State Smokers’ Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487).