By DENISE A. RAYMO
---- — MALONE — Franklin County has the second-highest rate of adult smokers in New York, and an initiative is under way to make all county properties tobacco-free.
Healthy Heart Network Executive Director Margot Gold, County Public Health Director Katie Strack and Nanette Postlethwait of the Adirondack Tobacco Free Network have urged the County Legislature to appoint a committee to study creation of a tobacco-free policy for employees and visitors.
Drafting a policy could take as long as a year, but Legislator Sue Robideau (R-Brushton) said that as chair of the county’s Human Resources Committee, she would raise the issue among members.
Clinton County properties became tobacco-free grounds on July 1 of this year, except for the landfill, Clinton Community College and the County Fairgrounds, which each have individual policies. Plattsburgh International Airport also has a designated-smoking section.
Essex County adopted a tobacco-free policy in November 2011, with exceptions for the County Fairgrounds in Westport and designated areas at the main county campus in Elizabethtown, the Public Safety Building in Lewis and the Public Works and Transportation Building in Elizabethtown.
HIGH SMOKING RATE
Gold, Strack and Postlethwait stressed the importance of policy in Franklin County since 1 in 3 of its residents between ages 18 and 64 is a smoker.
According to a December 2009 New York State Health Department’s Expanded Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System report, which tracks health-related trends across the state, Franklin County ranked second behind only Chemung County with the highest percentage of adult smokers ages 18 to 64.
Chemung County had 30.8 percent to Franklin County’s 30.7 percent.
Clinton County’s rate was 21.7 percent, and Essex County was at 24.2 percent.
The state average of adult smokers was 17 percent, including New York City, or 18.9 percent without it, according to the report.
Gold said the increased cost of cigarettes and other tobacco products helps prevent younger people from becoming smokers.
But efforts to help adults cut back or quit is hindered by the close proximity of the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, where locally manufactured cigarettes are sold by the bagful tax-free for about $18.
“They are of poor quality, and there is no regulation at all,” Gold said at a county meeting.
All three agencies continue to work with health-care providers, hospitals and clinics to make sure information about reducing or stopping smoking and tobacco use is available to patients.
Public-health nurses in the county conduct risk assessments of their in-home clients and offer referrals to the toll-free New York State Smokers Quit Line (1-800-NY-QUITS) for counseling and coping tips.
Through the Quit Line, income-eligible people can get a free, two-week supply of patches, gums or lozenges to help them quit.
There were 869 calls to the hotline from Franklin County in 2012, and 364 of those callers were sent free patches, Gold said. The patch kits can cost between $40 and $50 each.
BENEFITS FOR ALL
Since smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable disease and death, the women told legislators that getting more people to reduce their tobacco use or quit, coupled with an initiative for tobacco-free county grounds, will save taxpayer money.
They say fewer employee sick days would be booked, there would be lower medical expenses for employees and people on Medicaid and Medicare assistance, and productivity would rise because people won’t be leaving work stations to take cigarette breaks.
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