State continues to skimp on smoking cessation

In the hard economic times all states now face, it’s easy to cut state spending that helps people stop smoking.

But according to Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, it’s also wrong.

“We should view this as an investment,” Blumenthal said.

Instead, Blumenthal — now a U.S. Senator-elect — will end his career as attorney general knowing that one of his greatest accomplishments — the 1998 settlement with Big Tobacco that brought billions of dollars to the states — has never yielded much in Connecticut in funds dedicated for programs that help smokers quit.

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“Year after year, I have urged and admonished our state leaders that money from the tobacco settlement go to the purpose of our legal action — to stem and stop nicotine addiction,” Blumenthal said. “One of my disappointment as attorney general is that they have failed to heed that call.”

For Connecticut — one of the wealthiest states in the country — has never taken tobacco cessation programs seriously. For the 2011 fiscal year — when it will receive more than $130 million from the tobacco settlement — it will spend $400,000 on programs to help people stop smoking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it should be spending $43.9 million.

Connecticut isn’t the worst state in the country, According to a report released in November by the Washington DC-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, three states — Ohio, New Hampshire and Nevada — have de-funded their tobacco cessation programs entirely. But out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Connecticut ranks 45th.

“We should be outraged and embarrassed,” Blumenthal said.

And the importance of such programs has been underlined by a report that showed significant reductions in heart attacks and other coronary diseases within two years after people quit smoking, The state of Massachusetts has had a much more vigorous smoking cessation program than Connecticut.

The report, Blumenthal said, is proof that smoking cessation programs save states money, as well as lives, by reducing overall medical costs. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Connecticut state spends $1.6 billion a year treating tobacco-related illnesses.

Looking back to a time when the state had a healthy budget, but still balked at spending money on helping people quit smoking, is to see an opportunity wasted, Blumenthal said.

“It’s too bad they didn’t fix the roof when the sun was still shining,” he said.

source: www.newstimes.com

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