by Tobacco-Free Western New York
"The Great American Smokeout" takes place Thursday and serves as a reminder that quitting smoking is essential for good health.
Organizers said the most at-risk populations in New York haven't been able to quit on this day or any other.
Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable disease and death, killing nearly 24,000 New Yorkers every year, and afflicting nearly 600,000 New Yorkers with serious disease directly attributable to their smoking. Tobacco is not an equal opportunity killer - there has been no reduction in smoking rates among low-income adults, adults with poor mental health, and those with less than a high school education.
Western New York has some of the highest smoking rates in the state. In Erie County, the smoking rate is 26 percent; in Niagara Country, its 27 percent.
" 'The Great American Smokeout' has helped bring about dramatic changes in people's attitudes toward tobacco and smoking," said Anthony Billoni, director of Tobacco-Free Western New York. "These changes have led to community programs and tobacco-free policies that are now saving lives. While tobacco smoking rates have declined significantly across most of New York state, the high rates in Erie and Niagara counties demonstrate there is much work to be done."
Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said, "Tobacco takes a huge toll on Erie County residents. Smoking is the major cause of lung cancer, contributing to 80 percent of lung cancer deaths in women and 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in men. Quitting smoking at any age will help reduce the health risks associated with tobacco use."
The most recent data available for New York suggests vulnerable populations use tobacco at nearly twice the rate of the general population. Smoking use has not declined significantly among those with less than a high school diploma - one in four smoke; with an income below $15,000 - one in four smoke; and who report their mental health as poor - one in three smoke.
Research shows low-income communities are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry with marketing at retailers. Due to the clear evidence of these disparities that exist in tobacco use, tobacco control efforts are focused on strengthening community support for tobacco-free policies that help people quit and prevent youth from initiating tobacco use, particularly in communities such as Erie and Niagara counties that still have high tobacco use rates. These efforts include encouraging policies that promote smoke-free outdoors and smoke-free housing, and policies that reduce youth exposure to tobacco marketing.
"Community support to help smokers quit and keep kids from starting to smoke will continue to have a major impact on the health of residents of Western New York now and in the future," said Andrew Hyland, Ph.D., chairman of the department of health behavior at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. "We hope smokers take advantage of all the resources available throughout the year, which give smokers a greater chance to successfully quit today or in the near future."
For help quitting, talk with your doctor. For support, call the New York State Smokers' Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS or visit www.nysmokefree.com.
About Tobacco-Free Western New York
Roswell Park Cancer Institute established a tobacco-free community outreach program in 1993. Today, it administers three programs in Western New York: Tobacco-Free Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany: Tobacco-Free Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming; and Tobacco-Free Erie-Niagara. Each locally based program is funded by the New York State Department of Health, bureau of tobacco control. Goals are to prevent youth tobacco initiation through "Reality Check" youth outreach and to prevent and reduce tobacco use among adults across this region and in New York.