Great American Smokeout today is a chance to cut tobacco use in St. Lawrence County
Thursday, November 15, 2012 - 11:43 am

St. Lawrence County Tobacco Program Coordinator is urging smokers to participate in the Great American Smokeout today, with the hope that one day away from tobacco might be the first step in quitting.

Benjamin Todd has been making progress in his goal of eliminating tobacco use in the county, with such developments as the recently approved ban of smoking on county property, but with a high rate of tobacco use among county residents – still above 25 percent among adults -- he and health care officials are hoping the annual Smokeouts can help some of them quit.

State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah said in his message about the Smokeout, “Most smokers find it very difficult to quit and need medication, support and encouragement to give up smoking. The Great American Smokeout is an opportunity for smokers to pledge to stop smoking for at least one day, an important step toward kicking the powerful addiction to nicotine.”

The Great American Smokeout is an annual event sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Through the Smokeout, the American Cancer Society encourages smokers to quit smoking for at least one day, and offers advice on how to permanently quit.

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in New York and the United States. Each year approximately 25,500 New Yorkers die from smoking and an estimated 570,000 are afflicted with diseases related to their smoking. In addition, it is estimated that nearly 400,000 new underage daily smokers in this country take it up each year – and roughly one-third of them will eventually die prematurely from smoking-caused disease, according to the Health Department.

Current smoking rates statewide are 18.1 percent for adults and 12.6 percent for high school age teens. In St. Lawrence County the adult smoking rate is still above 25 percent, according to Todd. Smoking still accounts for more than $8 billion in medical costs in New York State each year, including taxpayer funds for Medicaid.

Any person trying to quit smoking – or even just thinking about quitting – is encouraged to call the New York State Smokers' Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS (697-8487). The Quitline offers free services such as assistance in developing effective plans and strategies to quit; coaching and motivation; nicotine replacement therapy for eligible smokers, such as nicotine patches; locations and contact information for local stop smoking programs; and coaching to help prevent those who successfully quit smoking from taking up smoking again.

Information about the Quitline, including languages spoken, can be found at http://www.nysmokefree.com/

Additional information about efforts to reduce tobacco use in New York State is available at: http://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/tobacco_control/.