I am writing this letter on Nov. 21 because it is the Great American Smoke Out Day sponsored by the American Cancer Society. The goal for this day each year is to convince smokers/tobacco users to quit for one day, but the hope is that they will quit forever. The Smoke Out has been around for 38 years now, but tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable disease and death. Around 25,000 people in New York State die each year from tobacco related diseases. According to the ACS, 60 percent of cancers could be avoided if people stopped using tobacco. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, about 20,000 youth in New York become new daily smokers each year.
The good news is these numbers have dropped since 2000 when New York began its comprehensive state tobacco control program. Between 2000 and 2012, the state smoking rate for middle school age students declined by about 70 percent, and for high school students it dropped by 56 percent. Between 2000 and 2011, the adult smoking rate in the state dropped from 21.6 percent to 18.1 percent.
The New York state Department of Health estimates about 35 percent of the total decline of adult smoking is attributable to youth prevention strategies, and this reduction in smoking among young adults will reduce future health care costs by approximately $5 billion.
The savings in health care costs alone is one great reason to continue our support for our comprehensive state tobacco control program, which utilizes the skills of community-based coalitions and programs such as Project Action the Tobacco-free Coalition, Reality Check, HFM Prevention Council, ASAPPs Promise and other local substance abuse prevention councils.
DOREAN PAGE, credentialed prevention professional for Project Action and Reality Check HFM