A legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
Earlier this year, the State Health Department announced some good news: the statewide adult smoking rate has fallen to 14.2%.
This is the lowest level since 1985 when New York began using its current system to track smoking rates and it is below the national average of 15.5%.
Despite the improvements, smoking continues to be a leading contributor of preventable disease, disability and death in the state.
The U.S. Surgeon General has identified 16 different types of cancers that can be caused by smoking.
In New York alone, it is estimated that 28,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses each year.
Putting aside the human tragedy related to smoking, costs for cancer treatments and other diseases caused by smoking in New York are estimated to be more than $10 billion a year.
The smoking rates in counties vary greatly from county to county ranging anywhere from 7% to 29%.
Unfortunately, smoking rates in Oswego, Jefferson, and Onondaga counties are higher than the state average.
Oswego and Jefferson reported rates of 29% and 28% respectively and Onondaga County reported 17.2%.
More needs to be done to reduce these rates and education is key.
One local program that works to discourage smoking is the Tobacco-Free Network of CNY.
The Tobacco Free Network of CNY (TFN) provides free technical support and materials to encourage businesses to adopt tobacco-free policies.
In November, the network encouraged students at the Cayuga Community college to join in the Great American Smoke Out held in November each year.
In addition to working with businesses and organizations, the Tobacco Free Network works hand in hand with Reality Check, an educational and outreach organization that is run by our local youth.
Studies show that most people who smoke started before the age of 18.
Organizations like Reality Check helps kids learn about the tobacco industry at a young age so they are knowledgeable about some of the marketing tactics used by tobacco companies which often target our youth.
The hope is empowering teens with leadership opportunities and education enables them to serve as anti-smoking role models and advocates for their peers.
In the past I have met with teens from Reality Check in Albany who traveled from around the local district and are passionate about reducing the smoking rate and recruiting adults to help them spread the word.
These programs are funded by cigarette taxes and by the large tobacco settlement of 1998 which forced tobacco companies to compensate states for health care costs and promote cessation programs.
Addiction to nicotine in cigarettes is one of the strongest addictions people can have and it is hard to quit.
Each year, out of the 37.8 million Americans who smoke, approximately 20 million American smokers try to quit and only about 1.4 million succeed.
Experts recommend having a plan of action to be successful and to get the facts about nicotine addiction and common pitfalls.
If you are thinking about quitting, call the New York State quit line at 1-866-697-8487 or visit www.nysmokefree.com.
Kits are available to those who wish to quit and some may be eligible for free nicotine replacement therapy.
For help or more information, contact the Tobacco Free Network of CNY at 315-343-2344 extension 10.
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.
My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.