To the Editor:
I have been part of the North Country community my entire life, both by supporting local athletics as Sports Director at WPDM for over 40 years, and as a booster. I’ve seen tobacco use have a devastating effect on the health and well being of the people of St. Lawrence County.
After a discussion with the program coordinator for the St. Lawrence County Tobacco Free Community Partnership, I’ve gained a better understanding of the extent of the impact tobacco use has on our families.
Tobacco use is the nation’s number one cause of preventable death. It kills more than 400,000 people each year and costs the health care system almost $100 billion annually. In New York State alone each year 25,000 adults will die from tobacco related illness. Almost 389,000 kids that are currently under 18 and live in New York State will ultimately die from tobacco use if the current trend continues.
However, there is an effective way to combat the problem: tobacco control programs which are being implemented by state and local leadership have proven to be effective. The changes being sought by the St. Lawrence County Tobacco Free Community Partnership, under the leadership of Ben Todd, deserve our serious consideration and support. For example, we need to somehow change the impression kids get when they go to the checkout counter at most retail outlets. As a general rule, the last thing they see is a giant wall of cigarettes. We also need to designate more of our parks and playgrounds as tobacco-free zones to ensure that the young folks are not exposed to a harmful addiction.
Broad tobacco control programs are desperately needed, and have proven to be very productive in the efforts to reduce the social acceptability of tobacco use in our communities. It is important to remember that the more that we can reduce the social acceptability of tobacco use the greater effect we will have on preventing youth smoking and experimentation. We must seriously consider the recommendations of these programs if we wish to improve the future for the children of St. Lawrence County.
James “Con” Elliott, Potsdam