JOHNSTOWN - Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties has been awarded a five-year $1.6 million state grant to educate people about the dangers of tobacco use and promote anti-tobacco programs.
Catholic Charities' Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities will coordinate the programs. The group recently formed as the result of a merger of the Project Action and Reality Check organizations, which aim to reduce tobacco use and raise awareness, said Sue Arminio, community coordinator for Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities.
The newly merged group has two locations at Catholic Charities offices in Gloversville and Amsterdam, Arminio said.
The group and the grant will serve Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery counties.
The annual funding of $325,000 will help the program engage the community to change policies about tobacco and tobacco use, according to a news release.
The grant, awarded by the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Tobacco Control, builds on previous grant-funded tobacco-control work by the organizations.
Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities of Hamilton, Fulton and Montgomery Counties will educate community leaders and the public, and mobilize community members and organizations to strengthen tobacco-related policies that prevent and reduce tobacco use, the news release said.
Efforts also will focus on reducing youth exposure to harmful tobacco marketing in retail settings, limiting exposure to secondhand smoke, and reducing smoking imagery through the media, according to the news release.
"Tobacco use remains the number one preventable cause of death and disease in this country, so this is extremely important work," said John Nasso, executive director of Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties. "We are proud to be part of a statewide effort to prevent youth smoking."
The grant will pay for programs and the salaries of the three people working for the Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities program.
Arminio said the group already is planning programs.
"It will be really exciting," said Arminio, who added the group relies on the grant.
She said the grant is important in reaching the goal of changing social norms about smoking.
"This is just a tobacco-control grant, so it is just for that [goal]," Arminio said.
According to the news release, the primary goals of this grant are to:
Reduce the effect of retail tobacco marketing on youths.
Establish tobacco-free community norms through tobacco-free outdoor air policies.
Reduce secondhand smoke exposure through smoke-free housing policies.
Reduce tobacco imagery in youth-rated movies.
Reduce tobacco-industry presence on social media.
Twenty-five grants were awarded to organizations across the state totaling $9.4 million annually.
Funding began July 1 and ends March 31, 2019.
Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities is a community engagement program and youth component of the state Department of Health, Bureau of Tobacco Control.
The program will include a Tri-County Advisory Board that, along with subcommittees, will include a network of community members, organizations, elected officials and youths, the news release said.
Under the Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities group, the youth-oriented Reality Check will continue as a program, which will engage youths from ages 13 to 18 in tobacco-control activities, the news release said.
The Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities program will be coordinated by three staff members: Reality Check coordinators Sarah Kraemer and Shauna Sitts, and Arminio.
Each year, about 25,500 New Yorkers die prematurely as a result of smoking, according to the group.
Leader-Herald Managing Editor Tim Fonda contributed to this report.