By JEFF MEYERS
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Public tobacco-free policies have proven successful in helping to reduce the number of people addicted to tobacco.
As the nation focuses on smoking cessation during the 37th-annual Great American Smokeout on Thursday, the Adirondack Tobacco-Free Network continues to offer its support in helping curb the addiction.
“Tobacco-free policies are contributing to the reduction of tobacco use,” said Christa VanCour, senior public-health educator for the Adirondack Tobacco-Free Network.
“ATFN initially began working with playgrounds and day-care centers as good targets for tobacco-free areas,” she added. “No one wants to see kids start smoking, so those seemed like logical starting points.”
With a foundation of tobacco-free, youth-oriented locations, the network then began working with regional businesses and municipalities to expand on public no-smoking areas.
“The more that tobacco-free policies are in existence, the more normal it will become not to use tobacco in those areas,” VanCour said.
Georgia-Pacific, PowerTec, area hospitals and Champlain Centre mall are among places that have adopted tobacco-free policies that have proven successful in helping employees and customers find a way to reduce their contact with tobacco, she said.
“We have really built this process strategically by starting in areas where tobacco-free policies seemed to make sense and then moving to where they would benefit more people,” said Karen Derushia, principal public-health educator for the Clinton County Health Department.
“It’s always done as a process,” she added. “ATFN never recommends going tobacco-free in one day. It takes certain steps to develop policies that can be communicated to employees, customers, students — anyone who will be affected by those policies.”
MUCH TO BE DONE
The Tobacco-Free Network has worked with government seats in Clinton, Franklin and Essex counties and is offering its support to the region’s universities and colleges, which may be considering tobacco-free policies.
“The SUNY chancellor (Nancy Zimpher) has strongly recommended that state colleges become tobacco-free by 2014,” VanCour said. “Although that recommendation would have to be passed by the State Legislature, it is asking SUNY schools to take a close look at what direction they’d like to take.”
Any tobacco-free policy should include support for smokers, including cessation material and information, she added.
“The Great American Smokeout is one way to promote all of the help that is available for people,” she said. “It gives people a specific day on the calendar to formulate a plan in advance and to quit smoking on that day.”
In New York state alone, more than 25,000 people die from smoke-related illnesses each year, according to the American Cancer Society. Although smoking numbers in adults have decreased from 21.1 million in 2009 to 18.1 million in 2010, that leaves a lot of people who remain addicted to tobacco.
“Tobacco-control policies have done a tremendous amount of work over the years, but there is still definitely a lot of work to be done,” VanCour said.
“The Great American Smokeout is justification that we need to continue moving forward.”
Email Jeff Meyers: firstname.lastname@example.org
Great American Smokeout is a day every year designed to encourage smokers, whether of cigarettes, pipes or cigars, to make a plan to quit.
As the date approaches, some get their plan in place then actually quit smoking on that day.
Either way, the American Cancer Society offers plenty of resources, tips and support any time: at: http://www.cancer.org/healthy/stayawayfromtobacco/greatamericansmokeout/index. Or call (800) 227-2345.
As well, any business, municipality or other organization interested in having a public tobacco-free policy can call the Adirondack Tobacco-Free Network at 565-4993 for assistance in developing smoke-free policies.