Herkimer County anti-smoking initiatives escalate

November 27th, 2017 — ( timestelegram.com )

Anti-smoking efforts are charging ahead in Herkimer County.

Recent initiatives include a new smoking cessation class, a coordinator for a tobacco prevention program for teens and a survey on attitudes toward tobacco-related issues in the county.

The survey showed that a majority of residents favor many of the tobacco-safe policies supported by BRIDGES Tobacco Prevention Program, which conducted the survey. Support for initiatives such as smoke-free housing (62 percent of apartment dwellers favor smoke-free policies) and tobacco-free parks (82-percent support) has gone up a lot in the years BRIDGES has been doing a survey, said Sue Casanova, community engagement coordinator.

″(They got) tobacco-free parks, then we do the survey. Now they love tobacco-free parks,” she said. “They didn’t know until they experienced it.”

She said the same holds true for housing with the number of smoke-free buildings going up.

But not every policy got a lot of support.

“One of the things we noticed is there’s not a lot of support for smoke-free media in the county,” Casanova said.

And that’s where Reality Check, a teen program of BRIDGES comes in. BRIDGES, which also works in Oneida and Madison counties, hired a new Herkimer County coordinator for the program in September. Six Dolgeville Middle School students have signed up so far and that coordinator, youth action specialist Rachel Johnson is working on a project with a psychology class at Central Valley Academy, she said.

That project will involve advocacy to make movies that depict tobacco use R-rated, she said. And the Reality Check students will probably do some work on tobacco-free parks and recreation areas, Johnson said.

“I don’t’ smoke because I have had my family die young from smoking,” student Ashton Montana said.

“I know someone born with health issues because of smoking,” student Phoenix Longway said.

Johnson is working to expand to more schools with a stronger focus on middle schools than high schools. That’s because the average age for a new smoker in New York is 13, Johnson said.

“So we’re trying to begin with the middle school before they get hooked,” she said.

Herkimer HealthNet also has trained three smoking cessation counselors to make up for a dearth of classes in the county, said Elyse Enea, program coordinator and one of the counselors. The first class will take place in December at Little Falls Hospital and a second class will begin in January, she said.

Bridges Tobacco Prevention Program

Bridges is a public health-policy advocacy program aimed at preventing the many deadly diseases caused by tobacco in Herkimer, Oneida and Madison counties in Upstate New York. According to its website, it is “not an ‘anti-smoker’ group. We realize the tobacco industry has caused deadly addiction by lying about their products and ingredients. We advocate for truth in advertising, labeling and product design, as well as holding the tobacco industry accountable for its actions.”

Want to quit?

For information on smoking classes through Herkimer HealthNet, call 315-867-1552 or go to its page on Facebook.

Contact reporter Amy Neff Roth at 315-792-5166 or follow her on Twitter (@OD_Roth).