OSWEGO, NY â€“ The Tobacco Free Network is back in high gear in Oswego County.
Abby Jenkins officially took over as program coordinator on Sept. 3. The office is located at 157 W. First St.
Years ago, walking down West First Street in the Port City with her parents, she never dreamt she be working there some day.
She has been involved in the Tobacco Control Program in various capacities for several years; starting as a youth in the Madison County Reality Check Program.
â€œFrom there, I was hired as a Reality Check Program assistant while getting my college degree (Political Science) right here at SUNY Oswego,â€ she told Oswego County Today.com â€œAfter college, my work experience as a lobbyist and working for various government agencies has prepared me to, once again, step into a new role in the Tobacco Control Program with a fresh perspective and energy.â€
TFN of Oswego County, a division of Integrated Community Planning, is a local coalition of organizations and individuals, funded by grants provided by the NYS Department of Health, to work toward a healthy and tobacco-free community, Jenkins explained.
It had been without state funding for a while until just earlier this year.
There are two key initiatives TFN will be working towards in the coming months: Point Of Sale and Tobacco-Free Outdoors.
TFNâ€™s goal of addressing point of sale issues is to limit youth access to tobacco products and tobacco displays, she explained.
The other goal is working closely on creating greater access to tobacco-free outdoor spaces. This includes, but is not limited to, parks and playgrounds.
â€œTobacco litter is poisonous and puts children, pets and wildlife at risk,â€ Jenkins noted. â€œIn addition, exposure to secondhand smoke in outdoor recreational areas can be hazardous. These places of outdoor refuge should be recreational areas where people can breathe the fresh air and exercise smoke-free.â€
As she was job searching recently, fate intervened. TFN was without a local coordinator and its grant funding had been restored.
â€œIt kind of clicked, the timing really worked out very well,â€ she said. â€œI had just moved back. Actually, the woman I was working with in Madison County suggested that I e-mail (former TFN director) Christina Wilson (the executive director of Integrated Community Planning) over here just to see if she knew of anyone that was hiring. I didnâ€™t even realize that there was a position open.â€
She was hired in June, but didnâ€™t start working until August.
â€œRight now the Tobacco Free Network is getting back on its feet. Our executed contract just came in Aug. 26. We’re excited to finally be re-starting the program and I’m very pleased to be the new coordinator,â€ she continued. â€œWe are grant funded through the NYS Health Department’s Tobacco Control Program. Iâ€™ll be spending the next few months at several community events educating about our two main initiatives, point of sale tobacco displays and tobacco-free outdoors.â€
They hope to build up and revitalize the coalition with input from local businesses and community members, she said.
The coalition consists of people of various backgrounds. Some come in with a health background; a few others like Jenkins have a political background.
It was something she has been passionate about since a young age, she said.
â€œWhen I was in college, I didnâ€™t necessarily think Iâ€™d stay with Tobacco Control although I wanted to stay involved somehow,â€ she said. â€œI kind of came full circle when I heard about this job. I wanted to move back, closer to home (Canastota). When I went to school here, I loved it so much that I knew eventually I wanted to come back. I was so excited when I found out about the job; itâ€™s my ideal job in my ideal location!â€
When she told her mother that she was coming back to Oswego, she found a clipping in Abbyâ€™s scrapbook from a Syracuse newspaper.
It was a photo of a then 4-year-old Abby.
â€œWe had come up here for a day to go shopping. I was walking down the street with my little umbrella and a photographer snapped a picture of it,â€ she said. â€œI looked at it and it is on West First where I work now. My mom said, â€˜You know, it was meant to be.â€™ I have it framed now in my apartment.â€
The Tobacco Control Program is divided into five modalities that each address a specific population as well as program specific goals and deliverables to reduce the impact of tobacco.
The five modalities are:
Oswego Countyâ€™s cessation partners are Patricia Briest and Chris Owens from St. Josephâ€™s Hospital in Syracuse.
The NYS Smokersâ€™ Quitline is 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487)
Student Support Services
Oswego Countyâ€™s School Policy partner is Stacy McNeill from OCM BOCES.
Currently, two school districts (Hannibal and Pulaski) are participating.
They were selected based on a three-pronged criteria â€“ have they worked on tobacco polices before? The district has 50 percent free and reduced lunch, and are they working on further tobacco policies?
Reality Check programs train youth to become activist in the movement to change community norms regarding tobacco use.
Oswego County is part of a three-county contract, based out of Onondaga County, dubbed CO2.
The programs are all coordinated by Elizabeth Toomey from Prevention Network.
C4C (Colleges For Change)
Oswego County doesnâ€™t have C4C, Jenkins noted. These responsibilities will fall under the Community Partnership Outreach, she said.
Community Partnerships work to change the community environment to support the tobacco-free norm, Jenkins explained. Oswego Countyâ€™s Community Partnership is better known as TFN, she added.
â€œAnyone can get involved at anytime with TFN by contacting me at [email protected] or 343-2344 extension 21,â€ she said.