Health Commissioner Defends Closing Children’s Dental Clinics, Funding Anti-Smoking Ads

In continuing testimony at the City Council's budget hearing on H.H.S., Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden is defending his agency’s decision to save money by closing dental clinics for children, but not, for example, reducing funds for the anti-smoking campaign, which he said costs $5 million annually.

“Compared with all of the other options, we see this as the least bad,” said Commissioner Frieden, referring to the clinics.

Frieden told City Council members that funding “dramatic” anti-smoking campaigns correlates with a decline in the number of New Yorkers who smoke. Frieden said making cuts to that advertising campaign would result in “more deaths.”

Later, when asked by City Councilman Oliver Koppell, the commissioner admitted that the money the city receives from the state and federal government from an omnibus anti-smoking settlement is “not earmarked for any specific purpose.”

Koppell then said, “That money is used for budget balancing,” and wondered aloud, if, during a budget crisis, not smoking should return to being the “responsibility of the individual.”

Frieden maintained throughout the exchange that if the advertising campaign was reduced, “more people would die.”