Tobacco Free Network Director Excited To Be Back In Oswego

OSWEGO, NY – 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.

Abby Jenkins, program coordinator for Tobacco Free Network of Oswego County, prepares to enter her 157 W. First St. office in Oswego.
Abby Jenkins, program coordinator for Tobacco Free Network of Oswego County, prepares to enter her 157 W. First St. office in Oswego.

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.

“From there, I was hired as a Reality Check Program assistant while getting my college degree (Political Science) right here at SUNY Oswego,” she told Oswego County “After 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.”

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.

TFN’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.

“Tobacco litter is poisonous and puts children, pets and wildlife at risk,” Jenkins noted. “In 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.”

As she was job searching recently, fate intervened. TFN was without a local coordinator and its grant funding had been restored.

“It kind of clicked, the timing really worked out very well,” she said. “I 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 didn’t even realize that there was a position open.”

She was hired in June, but didn’t start working until August.

“Right 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,” she continued. “We are grant funded through the NYS Health Department’s Tobacco Control Program. I’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.”

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.

“When I was in college, I didn’t necessarily think I’d stay with Tobacco Control although I wanted to stay involved somehow,” she said. “I 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; it’s my ideal job in my ideal location!”

When she told her mother that she was coming back to Oswego, she found a clipping in Abby’s scrapbook from a Syracuse newspaper.

It was a photo of a then 4-year-old Abby.

“We 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,” she said. “I looked at it and it is on West First where I work now. My mom said, ‘You know, it was meant to be.’ I have it framed now in my apartment.”

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 County’s cessation partners are Patricia Briest and Chris Owens from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse.

The NYS Smokers’ Quitline is 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487)

Student Support Services

Oswego County’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 – have they worked on tobacco polices before? The district has 50 percent free and reduced lunch, and are they working on further tobacco policies?

Youth Action

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 doesn’t have C4C, Jenkins noted. These responsibilities will fall under the Community Partnership Outreach, she said.

Community Partnerships

Community Partnerships work to change the community environment to support the tobacco-free norm, Jenkins explained. Oswego County’s Community Partnership is better known as TFN, she added.

“Anyone can get involved at anytime with TFN by contacting me at [email protected] or 343-2344 extension 21,” she said.

1 Comment

  1. I am a tobacco orphan, although(lol!), my status as an orphan didn’t occur until after childhood. So I think your business philosphy is not only necessary, but highly desirable in a society that values financial rather than health benefits.

    The history of tobacco use is varied and complicated, but mostly, it is based on economic gain. The natives smoked at peace pipe as religious and celebratory occasions. ONLY when there was substantial money to be made that it became an internationally desired commodity.

    Due to its monetary benefits, legislation languished that protected innocent bystanders (many literally ‘standing by!’) from those that at a ‘right to smoke.’
    No one seemed to notice that non-smokers had the right NOT to smoke.

    NOW, we must address the addictive qualities of this drug. And, so I am extremely pleased to see our tax dollars going for more than war.

    Back to my parents. Both of them literally died from complications due to their smoking addictions. Mom, third heart attack at a very youthful 49, and Dad, after surviving two cancers, to emphysema at 69. Both smoked from their teen years when there was suspicions that smoking might not be healthy, but who by the time it was proven it was, were so addicted to something that had been a part of their lives for their whole adult life, and felt they could not quit.

    I smoked second hand smoke through large portions of my childhood. I am a rabid non-smoker, but obviously, I still carry the residual threat of their addiction!

    Welcome to Oswego. A lot of us are happy you are here!


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