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Groups to NY Governor: Bolster Funds for Anti-Smoking Programs

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A number of cancer organization and anti-smoking groups has penned a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, asking him to bolster what they say are lifesaving programs, and not cut them.  And, the groups contend, for the first time, the programs appear differently in the governor’s proposed budget.

The programs, including for cancer screenings, obesity, and diabetes, come under the heading of “Chronic Disease” programs, and it’s a grouping that Blair Horner calls problematic. Horner is the vice president for advocacy for New York and New Jersey for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. He says his organization, along with the American Lung Association, and other groups, have written a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, over concern about the governor’s budget proposal for public health programs.

Horner says the budget does not offer specifics in the so-called Chronic Diseases line, where the programs are put together.

He says the anti-smoking program receives about $35 million, and the cancer-screening programs, around $25 million.

In response to the groups’ letter and concern over cuts, Governor Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi, in an e-mailed statement, says, "Consolidation will have no adverse effect on transparency, access or quality of services. “ He adds, quote, “These reforms will ensure New Yorkers receive better and more efficient services at less cost."

Dr. Michael Caldwell is the Dutchess County Health Commissioner. He’s also a gubernatorial appointee to the state’s Tobacco Prevention Advisory Board, which is charged with advising the state health commissioner on tobacco issues.

He says any cuts to anti-smoking programs would cut into his some of his county’s programs, such as enforcing that retailers are not selling cigarettes to minors; and providing funding to Smoke-Free Dutchess, an educational program about tobacco prevention and control.

The Cancer Action Network’s Blair Horner says it was during conversations with members of the governor’s executive branch that he and others were starting to see the picture about what’s at stake in the one budget line.

Both he and Dr. Caldwell point out that, last year, the governor proposed a $5 million cut to New York’s tobacco-control program, which was not approved. And it is because of this failed proposal that Horner believes the program is on the chopping block this year. He says hearings on the 2013-2014 proposed budget are underway this week, with the state health department budget hearing scheduled for Wednesday, and he hopes to learn more at that point.

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