It seems that previous initiatives aimed to control tobacco use have been quite successful as smoking rates have dropped year after year. However, Worcester Department of Public Health representative Karyn Johnson fears that what her department has achieved may be jeopardized.
The population at present is at 181,000 with more than 31,000 smokers. In 1998, the budget set for anti-tobacco programs reached $350,000. This amount has been cut down to $135,000. This is why Johnson and the rest of the people in her department are worried. In a time when tobacco use is once again at a slow but steady increase, budget cuts will not be good and tobacco use will instead go up after many years of decline.
Johnson and five full-time staff see to it that tobacco retailers are following laws and regulations especially on the selling of such products to minors. In 2000, the group was able to visit 600 stores and checked on their compliance, but today they have enough budgets to cover only 300 stores in their area.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden explained that what is happening in Worcester is part of a study done all over the country to see how financial adjustments affect public health initiatives in America. He said: “The big picture is that tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. But there was a combination of fiscal crises, and states choose to do other things than tobacco cessation.”
For Worcester public health director Derek Brindisi, departments such as his are always given lesser priority, thus accomplishments made over the decades can be easily side-stepped, even if they have brought down smoking rates in the United States significantly.