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Report criticizes cuts in antismoking funds

ALBANY, N.Y. - Funding for antismoking ads and other smoking cessation programs in New York and other recession-battered states is being slashed, sometimes more than other government programs, despite success and savings in health care costs.

A US surgeon general’s report due to be released March 8 will come down hard on states that have cut antismoking funds in tough fiscal times, said Terry Pechacek, who oversees the report as director for science in the Office on Smoking and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The report cannot result in sanctions, but it has proved to move public opinion in the past to force changes by tobacco companies in how they sell cigarettes, how states fund efforts, and how the federal government regulates the trade.

“It is a hard-hitting report and it’s going to say, ‘Why haven’t we ended this epidemic? Why are we still feeding all these replacement smokers into a deadly industry?’ ’’ Pechacek said in an interview.

“We’ve been saying since 1964 that we are going to do something about it, and we are basically in a stall,’’ he said.

There are increased federal efforts to cut into the smoking rate. The Food and Drug Administration is planning to spend about $600 million over five years to educate the public about the dangers of tobacco use.

The share of Americans who smoke has fallen dramatically since 1970, from nearly 40 percent to 20 percent down to about 46 million adult smokers now. But smoking levels haven’t changed since about 2004.

Multimedia campaigns are aimed at reducing death and disease caused by tobacco, which is responsible for about 443,000 deaths a year in the United States.

In New York, antismoking campaigns are credited with pushing the smoking rate to historic lows of 15.5 percent for adults and 12.6 percent for high schoolers.

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