Anti-smoking efforts lose funds
Just as they prepare for a new round of smoking cessation classes for adults, health officials will start the new year without money for successful programs aimed at young people.
Legislators took away $250,000 that would have supported Guilford County’s tobacco prevention and cessation efforts, $100,000 for high school and $150,000 for college programs.
There are an estimated 53,000 fewer smokers because of the programs, according to state health department figures. Earlier this year, the North Carolina Youth Tobacco Survey showed that 4.3 percent of middle school students and 15.5 percent of high school students smoked cigarettes. That rate has dropped steadily in North Carolina since 2003, when 9.3 percent of middle school students and 43 percent of high school students smoked. The average age people start smoking is 12.
Funds came from the state’s $4 billion tobacco settlement. Legislators moved $17.3 million in smoking prevention funds to the general fund to spend for other programs.
“We lost our staff in the summer, and we are closed up now,” said Mary Gillett, tobacco prevention coordinator for the Guilford County Department of Public Health. “We expect there will be new money, and we hope the state will re-allocate funds.”
Tobacco Reality Unfiltered was aimed at high school students with teens encouraging other teens to give up smoking or not to start. Legislators cut tobacco prevention programs despite efforts from the N.C. Alliance for Health and 60 health organizations.
Tobacco use is the No. 1 preventable cause of death, according to health experts, and it creates health risks for smokers as well as those around them.
The QuitSmart classes for adults are funded by the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities in the N. C. Department of Health and Human Services. QuitSmart utilizes several different techniques and has been proven to be more effective than other stop-smoking programs.
Restaurant ban: The state this month celebrates three years of smoke-fee restaurants and bars following a smoking ban approved by the General Assembly. Health officials say the ban has improved indoor air quality, prevented heart attacks and saved health care dollars.
QuitSmart: Sessions resume Friday in High Point and Jan. 10 in Greensboro. Go to www.guilfordhealth.org and click on the QuitSmart icon at the bottom of the home page. Contact a QuitLineNC coach at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). To learn more about QuitSmart, visit www.quitsmart.com