The Mirror’s recent article The story in charts: Who still smokes?  effectively illustrates why the smoking crisis in Connecticut is far from being solved.  While it is true that overall smoking rates have decreased in Connecticut and across the nation, tobacco control progress has not kept pace among certain groups.  As the article points out, those with lower levels of education and also those with lower incomes typically continue to smoke at rates that are higher than average.

One way we can immediately begin to rectify this disparity is by investing more heavily in the state’s tobacco control program.  We fully recognize Connecticut’s dire financial circumstances, but we do not comprehend the decision to put zero dollars into the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017 when the state accumulates $2 billion in medical costs due to tobacco use.  Connecticut has spent $28.5 million over the last 12 years, when the Centers for Disease Control recommends we contribute $32 million annually on tobacco prevention and cessation services.

We know that a well-funded tobacco control program would be able to target its resources to help Connecticut residents who need and want to quit their deadly addiction. Tobacco use remains the number one cause of early death and disease.  States like Connecticut should be doing everything in their power to help smokers quit.

Jeff Seyler is President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast in East Hartford.

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