Albany, NY - February 19, 2014 - As part of an ambitious initiative to combat tobacco use, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced plans today to award $9 million to local organizations that will work to make New York a tobacco-free state.
The awards will be made through New York State Department of Health’s Bureau of Tobacco Control, which is seeking applications from community organizations. Total funding for the Advancing Tobacco Free Communities initiative is expected to be $9.4 million, dispersed over five years. Annual funding amounts will range from $325,000 to $500,000, depending on the population of a community. The department expects to award a total of up to 25 contracts. The deadline for applications is February 25, 2014.
“We have made a lot of progress in making our state healthier by reducing smoking but there is more we can do to make New York smoke free,” Governor Cuomo said. “Through these awards, we are using community-based strategies to combat tobacco use and promote chronic disease prevention. This funding will support the prevention and reduction of smoking helping New Yorkers be healthier and live longer.”
The State Health Department (DOH) plans to develop a statewide network of contractors, who will combine community engagement efforts with youth advocacy under the brand name Reality Check. As part of the program, Reality Check will engage a core group of youths aged 13-18 in action-oriented activities and teach them the leadership skills needed to engage in policy-related tobacco control work. Youth will be involved through a supportive peer group, working with adult guidance, to take action to mitigate, reduce or eliminate the tobacco industry’s deceptive marketing practices.
Contractors will also be required to engage and educate community stakeholders, leaders, organizations and the general public on ways to strengthen tobacco-related policies that prevent and reduce tobacco use, reduce youth exposure to harmful tobacco marketing in retail settings, limit exposure to secondhand smoke, and reduce smoking imagery in the media.
“Tobacco addiction is still the leading preventable cause of morbidity and mortality in New York State as well as the United States,” said Nirav R. Shah, MD, MPH, State Health Commissioner. “If we can work together to create a tobacco-free state, we can significantly lessen the impact of tobacco on the lives of all New Yorkers.”
Every year, approximately 25,000 people die prematurely because of cigarette use. Nearly 570,000 New Yorkers have serious diseases directly attributable to smoking, including lung and oral cancers, heart disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoking is a major cause of multiple cancers, of heart disease and stroke, and is the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Each year in New York State, $8.17 billion in medical costs are attributed to tobacco and smoking. Those financial costs increase when health care expenditures caused by exposure to secondhand smoke, smokeless tobacco use, cigar and pipe smoking, smoking-related fires, and lost productivity costs are included.
Youth are especially vulnerable to experimenting with tobacco, and the vast majority of adult smokers began smoking when they were teens. Efforts to reduce youth smoking have recently begun to demonstrate positive results. Earlier this month, DOH announced the results of a report highlighting the accomplishments of the Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act (ATUPA), which shows teen smoking rates have dramatically decreased due to efforts which make it difficult for teens to buy cigarettes.
ATUPA requires retailers to obtain positive proof that the person buying cigarettes is at least 18 years of age. Under the program, smoking among New York high school students has decreased 53 percent, from a high of 27.1 percent in 2000 to just 11.9 percent in 2012. Since 1997, more than $27.6 million in fines have been levied against 38,018 retailers for selling tobacco to minors.
The Bureau of Tobacco Control envisions all New Yorkers living in a tobacco-free society and aims to prevent the initiation of tobacco use, promote tobacco use cessation, and eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke. Its mission is to reduce morbidity and mortality and the social and economic burden caused by tobacco use. For more information about the Bureau of Tobacco Control, visit http://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/tobacco_control/program_components.htm.