PLATTSBURGH — The Great American Smokeout is still a thing because “nicotine addiction is serious business.”

“It started around 1977,” Karen Derusha, Clinton County Health Department supervising public health educator, said.

“There was an earlier one in 1976, a smaller version, but the 1977 one is when the American Cancer Society took that on and it became a thing.”

The Great American Smokeout reminds the public tobacco users need help and support to quit.

It also reminds the public of its responsibility to protect youth from the health harms associated with tobacco, according to a press release.


The original concept of the Great American Smoke Out was to get smokers to stop smoking for a whole day.

“That was a challenge for people who were addicted to nicotine,” Derusha said.

“The idea was to help them see that they could do that and to help other people see that they needed support in doing that. There was a lot of promotion around that, but we've learned a lot since then. We know that quitting for one day usually doesn't lead to a successful quit attempt that somebody would stop smoking from that.”

Every third Thursday of November is used more these days as a kickoff for a smoker's intention to quit smoking.

Traditional tobacco is linked with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), heart disease, lung cancer and other forms of cancer.

“It's a great time to make a plan, to research what cessation options and support are out there for you, and to set a date in they future when you plan to start your quit attempt,” Derusha said.


Delivery systems have moved beyond traditional cigarettes and tobacco products.

“Now, we have vaping, an electronic delivery of nicotine,” Derusha said.

“Same nicotine, different delivery system and some different issues that go along with each.”

U.S. President  Donald J. Trump has stalled on a flavored-vaping products ban.

“New York state has tried and it's now in court,” Derusha said.

“It's being challenged in court. That hasn't happened, but that's one of the steps. The flavorings in both vaping products and traditional tobacco products were one of the things that lured youths into using those products.”

Almost a third of young people are currently vaping, which is of great concern.

“Vaping or have tried vaping,” Derusha said.

“The other thing is the nicotine addiction that comes along with that."


The Health Department along with Tobacco-Free CFE (Clinton, Essex and Franklin) are on the front lines with TURN (Tobacco Use Reduction Network in Clinton County), which is helping to prevent another generation of young people to become addicted to nicotine.

“Prevention is best," Dana Bushey Isabella, program coordinator for Tobacco-Free CFE, said in a press release.

Research shows that 96 percent of smokers start before the age of 21. Strategies designed to keep youth from initiating tobacco use have helped smoking rates decline among all age groups. That is, until recently when the popularity of electronic cigarettes began to rise.

Since 2014, the number of youth who use e-cigarettes, also known as vaping, has almost tripled. Vaping has led to a dramatic surge in young people addicted to nicotine. Along with increases in youth vaping, use of traditional cigarettes in this age group has stopped declining and New York State is beginning to see a slight increase in cigarette use among youth.

“Their bodies are still developing,” Derusha said.

“Nicotine can have affects on heart rate, on the developing brain. Students who are addicted and are in school or trying to work may find that they have trouble focusing, concentrating in school, may be more susceptible to other drug use.”

Vaping devices are used to inhale other substances.

“So, whether that's THC or even things like cough syrups,” Derusha said.

“There is a range of different items that are being vaped.”


There weren't great resources available for parents to help them talk to their kids about vaping.

"Those are starting to be available now," Derusha said.

"We are seeing that void being filled in a bit. One of the other pieces of advice that we're giving is that parents should be starting conversations with their children about vaping and about some of the dangers associated with it.”

E-cigarettes, which are not currently regulated in the United States have been heavily marketed to youth.

Additionally, surveys show that parents are sometimes unaware that electronic cigarettes or vape pods contain nicotine.

One pod of vape juice can contain as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

Recent cases of severe lung injury and death have been most closely associated with vaping THC, the hallucinogenic compound found in marijuana.


Twenty-seven percent of youths in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties use vaping products.

“The health impact of using e-cigarettes including health harms from additives like flavorings and other chemicals have not been adequately tested,” Derusha said.

At least 60 chemical compounds have been found in e-liquids, and more are present in the aerosol produced by e-cigarettes, according to the Truth Initiative website.

Researchers have identified several substances which are either harmful or potentially harmful to e-cigarette users, including delivery solvents and propylene glycol, which can cause upper respiratory infections.

Parents need to have the vaping talk with their children before they hit double digits.

“Certainly, we're seeing vaping in the middle schools in general,” Derusha said.

“Since they are young people who are vaping that also means there are young people who are addicted to nicotine and they may still be seeing a pediatrician.”

Parents not only need to have that conversation with their child but also encourage their child to have that conversation with his or her pediatrician. “About their nicotine addiction and finding services that are available to help them is important,” Derusha said.

“It's often just a conversation that people don't normally think about having with a pediatrician. But if that's who the child is seeing at this point, that's your best starting point.


For a tobacco user trying to attempt quitting or planning to make an attempt, support is crucial from their loved ones.

“It's not an easy thing to do,” Derusha said.

“People need a lot of support. They often need to try a few times, and so we want to encourage people to get the support that they need and for their families and friends to be supportive.”

Email Robin Caudell:






Recommended for you