Area Groups Want to Snuff Out Preventable Smoking Deaths

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By: Hilary Powell

December 21, 2014 —One year ends another resolution begins. That is a typical pattern for many residents wanting to make a change, including smokers looking to put out their toxic habit.

Roni Ford, tobacco and prevention cessation manager for Indiana Black Expo, says the will to quit can come from a simple text.

“You may get text messages, you may get phone calls, to help you when there’s times of day when you’re most likely to smoke,” she says. “Most people smoke through habit. You get up the first thing in the morning, you want a cigarette, or maybe you’ll get a text instead that say hey how’s you’re day going, you know, did you get some coffee?”

The tool is a tactic of the Indiana Quit Line, a service of the Indiana State Department of Health. It’s free to anyone referred by an organization in the hotline’s provider network.

“These are actually behavioral cognitive coaches that are coaching people through this issue and they are coaching them with techniques evidence based techniques that will help that person through it,” Ford says.

It’s a line cessation experts want more Hoosiers to use. A study released this month by United Health Foundation found about one in five Indiana adults smoke—a number down 14 percent since 2012 but still higher than the national average. Ford says tobacco’s toll is especially harsh on African Americans.

“Even though we may sometimes we may smoke at even a lower rate than our counterparts, it affects us much more negatively,” Ford says.

Among the State Department of Health’s priorities for 2015 is to eliminate minority health disparities related to tobacco use. Ford says start by targeting merchandise marketed to children and teens.

“These are cigarillo products that come from your neighborhood convenience store,” she says referring to a pile of colorful packaged tobacco products. “We have whipped cream flavor, we have pumpkin spice, we have fruit punch. These are actual flavors that our youth are looking at each and every day, and are looking at these this is obviously something good because it’s got flavors and its in the convenience store and it’s cheap. And so it gives our youth the impression that I can start using these products. Most of the time they move on to cigarettes and they also do them in conjunction with cigarettes.”

A new PSA created for Indiana Black Expo chapter markets including East Chicago, Ind. and Gary, Ind., is another way experts hope to deter young Hoosiers before they grow up and light up.

Franciscan Alliance director of respiratory care Michael Meska says the region has among the highest smoking rate in the state.

Franciscan’s northern Indiana health centers offer a new screening of lung cancer in an effort to catch the early stages of lung cancer, often linked to smoking.

“What it does it finds nodules at early stage, when lung cancer is uh not presenting itself through symptoms but its perhaps present and when we catch it early we can treat it more aggressively,” Meska says.

He hopes the screenings will become more routine for people aged 55 and older or current and former smokers.

And he says a clear screening, even for current smokers, is not a license to light up.

“Deaths from lung cancer exceed the deaths from the next four cancers combined,” he says. “There’s a tremendous amount of energy given to breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer. All those cancers combined don’t equal the same amount of cancer deaths from lung cancer. The number one preventative you know thing that we can do is not smoke.”



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