Edwards establishes tobacco-free outdoor policy committee

MAYVILLE – Chautau-qua County Executive Gregory Edwards announ-ced in February during his state of the county address that he planned to create a tobacco-free environment for employees and visitors to all County Government Operations in conjunction with the Great American Smoke-Out in November. Since then Edwards reports that a committee has been formed and is hard at work.

Members of the Tobacco-Free Outdoor Policy Com-mittee include Health Insur-ance Administrator Kitty Crow, Health and Human Services Director Christine Schuyler, Legislator Tom DeJoe, Tri-County Tobacco Free Program Director Laurie Adams, several employees representing the county’s many work sites, a representative of the New York State Courts, and the County’s Health Insurance provider and broker.

The committee has met twice and Adams has been educating the committee on the importance of tobacco-free grounds, sample tool kits, and health cost savings. The committee has established a timeline for implementation and their first step is drafting a local law for Legislative action. Following the adoption of a law, the committee will develop a communication plan to inform the general public, ensure cessation information is easily accessible to all employees who wish to quit, post adequate signage, and plan a kick-off event.

In New York state, 25,500 adults die each year from smoking and 16,400 kids have lost at least one parent to a smoking-caused death.

The 2010 smoking rate of 25.3 percent in Chautauqua County was also higher than the state average of 16.3 percent. As part of the 2010-2013 Chautauqua County Community Health Assessment, the Health Planning Team identified chronic disease prevention as a priority area and stressed the need to reduce tobacco-use. They also set goals to reduce the prevalence of adult smoking to less than 12 percent and reduce the prevalence of youths who have smoked in the past month to less than 12 percent. This coincides with the New York State Prevention Agenda which strives to reduce illness, disability and death related to tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure.

“Creating a healthier environment for County employees and visitors is a step in a positive direction toward improving overall health outcomes for all,” Schuyler said.

The Center for Disease Control research estimates the difference in average annual medical expenditures between smokers and non-smokers is $5,455 per tobacco user and this does not include loss in work productivity due to absenteeism or excess break time.

“It is time for Chautauqua County to join the over 200 municipalities across New York state who have already adopted tobacco-free outdoor area policies or ordinances,” said Edwards. “It is time we protect the public health, safety, and general welfare of employees and visitors by reducing their exposure to secondhand smoke and toxins from tobacco products used on County property.”

The committee will be meeting monthly through November.

For more information on State Legislated Actions on Tobacco Issues visit the American Lung Association’s website at: slati.lungusa.org/.

For information on cessation programs, contact New York State Smokers’ Quitline at 866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) or visit their website at www.nysmokefree.org.