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USE SETTLEMENT TO FUND TOBACCO-CONTROL PROGRAM

The American Cancer Society joins Western New Yorkers in sending our best wishes to Erie County Executive-elect Joel Giambra as he and his family deal with his throat cancer. Tobacco-caused disease is the most serious preventable public health problem in the state. Every year, 87,000 New York children start smoking. Unless current trends change, one third of them will die prematurely from tobacco use.

Unfortunately, our county lawmakers missed a golden opportunity to reverse these trends when the Legislature unanimously approved a county budget last month that failed to dedicate a single new dollar to tobacco use prevention and cessation programs. Dedicating a portion of the county tobacco settlement funds to tobacco control would save lives and money. In New York, annual Medicaid costs due to smoking equal $1.9 billion. When smoking rates go down, so do health-care costs for low birth-weight babies, asthma, lung disease, cancer, stroke and heart attacks.

To reduce the impact of tobacco-related disease on future generations, our elected officials must dedicate a significant portion of the county's share of the settlement for a comprehensive countywide tobacco-control program. Other counties have already made the investment. Erie County residents can't afford not to.

HILLARY CLARKE

WNY Advocacy Director
Buffalo

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