Blog

National Prevention Week: Preventing Underage Drinking and Alcohol Misuse

Tuesday, May 11th, is the day during “National Prevention Week” that focuses on preventing underage drinking.  With the exception of last year, due to COVID19, Allegany Council’s Prevention Department has partnered with Wellsville Giant and Wellsville Central School SADD advisors and students to participate in “Sticker Shock” on this specific day. “Sticker Shock” is a public awareness campaign in which red and white stickers shaped like stop signs are placed on multi-packs of alcohol.  The stickers remind people that it is illegal for any person 21 or older to purchase or provide alcohol to minors, and that breaking the law could include one year in jail or fines up to one thousand dollars. 

Thanks to Wellsville Giant, Cuba Giant, Bolivar Shop-N-Save, Fillmore Shop-N-Save, and both Wellsville Walgreen locations for supporting the campaign throughout the year!

Last month was “Alcohol Awareness Month”.  If you missed the blog post on PPAC Central from April 18, check it out for some interesting information on the teenage brain and how youth development is affected by alcohol use.  In the meantime, read the following article for some information that may be new to you.  Prevention occurs over the course of our life span, so, keep an open mind for the facts that follow.

Does Drinking Alcohol Increase Your Risk for COVID-19? 2 Doctors Explain.

According to an article written by Mercey Livingston on 7/25/20, Dr. Edo Paz, Medical Director at K Health, and Dr. Tom Moorcroft, founder of Origins of Health, discuss the above topic for educational and informational purposes only.  Three relevant areas include the immune system, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and sleep.

The immune system, which keeps us healthy and protects us from illness, cannot function at maximum capacity if it is weakened by a substance such as alcohol.  The result is higher susceptibility to contracting any contagious illness, including COVID-19.  In addition, if alcohol is present in a person’s system when he/she comes into contact with a virus, the body’s chances of fighting it off are decreased.  This is due to the fact that it is easier for the pathogen (virus) to “take hold” and lead to an infection.

Alcohol also alters gut bacteria, which also affects the immune system.  Short and long term alcohol use can impair immune function because it leads to changes in microbiome, which are the organisms in the intestines that aid in normal gut function.  It can also lead to cell damage of the gut wall that can lead to leakage of microbes in the bloodstream, triggering inflammation.

ARDS can occur with COVID-19 and happens when fluid fills the lungs and prevents the body from getting enough oxygen.  This can result in death or severe lung damage, and heavy drinking and alcohol use can increase the risk for this on its own.  Healthy lungs are linked to a healthy immune system, and long term alcohol use is associated with an increased risk of developing ARDS, as the body is less able to ward off infection.  

The final area discussed in the article is related to sleep, crucial for overall health and especially the immune system.  Skimping on sleep can lower proteins in the body that fight inflammation and infection, making a person more susceptible to illness.  For information on how GABA and melatonin (sleep hormones) are affected, visit the complete article.

In summary, the suggestion in the article is to avoid alcohol in order to keep the immune system functioning at its best.  If a person twenty-one or older does drink socially, consuming less is better.

For those who suffer from immunosuppression, are considered immunocompromised, and/or have a pre-existing medical condition, alcohol should be completely avoided.

For those who are struggling with alcohol use at this challenging time, help is available.  Contact Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse at 585-593-6738 to schedule an appointment.  Visit Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc.’s (ACASA) and Partners for Prevention in Allegany County (PPAC) for resources.

Remember, Prevention Works!

National Prevention Week 585 Prevention Podcast with ACASA’s Community Educator Ann Weaver.

National Prevention Week: Preventing Prescription Drug and Opioid Misuse

Monday, May 10 kicks off Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2021 National Prevention Week. Each day of National Prevention Week has a main topic, which Monday is Preventing Prescription Drug and Opioid Misuse.

The National Institute on Health says teenagers and young adults have a common misperception that medications prescribed by physicians are safe, even when used illicitly. However, a broad range of motivations have been associated with the abuse of prescription drugs by teenagers. Some teenagers seek to self-medicate (e.g., pain, anxiety, insomnia) by abusing their own or others’ prescriptions.  1/3 of teens believe that it is okay to use prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them for injury, illness, or physical pain. Other teens use prescription drugs to enhance performance or abuse steroids to shape their bodies. Some teens take prescription drugs to get high or experiment, often combining them with alcohol. 40% of teens who have abused, or misused prescription drugs obtained them from their parents medicine cabinet, 2/3’s who misused pain relievers in the past year got them from a family member.

The Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc. (ACASA) and Partners for Prevention in Allegany County (PPAC) promote the message “Safe Use, Safe Storage, Safe Disposal.”

Safe Use is following the instructions of the medication and do not take any medication that has not been prescribed to you. Safe Use also means not sharing medications that are prescribed to you by a doctor with another person. Taking medications that are not prescribed to you personally, can have a bad interaction with other medications that you take and can be at a higher dose than you need, as many medications are prescribed based on a person’s weight. Federal and state law prohibits the sharing of prescription drugs that are controlled substances.

Safe Storage, as was mentioned above most young people who abuse or misuse prescription medications, get them from a parent, family member, or friend. Adults should take precautionary steps to make sure that their medications do not end up in the hands of their loved ones or their friends. Adults can make sure that their prescription medications are locked up, they can also keep an inventory of their medications. A blank medication inventory sheet can be found in the below resources.

Safe Disposal is encouraged for all community members. For starters, no one should hold onto unwanted or unused medications. By holding on to medications this opens the opportunity for them to get into unintended hands. Also, medications have an expiration date and over time will become ineffective or have an undesired effect. Secondly, we ask that you do not flush unwanted or unused medications down the toilet. Studies of our waterways have found traces of medications in the water and in fish. We also ask that you do not throw your medications in the garbage as people who know you have medications could go through your garbage to retrieve them. To properly dispose of your medications, you can take them to any of the following 10 Take It to the Box locations:

  • Alfred Pharmacy, 36 Main Street, Alfred.
  • Alfred State University Police, 10 Upper College Drive, Alfred.
  • Allegany County Sheriff’s Office, 4884 NY-19, Belmont.
  • Cuba Police Department, 15 Water Street, Cuba.
  • Fillmore Pharmacy, 10560 NY-19, Fillmore.
  • Friendship Pharmacy, 9 West Main Street, Friendship.
  • Nicholson Pharmacy, 36 Schulyer Street, Belmont.
  • Jones Memorial Hospital, 191 North Main Street, Wellsville.
  • Jones Memorial Medical Practice, 120 1st Street, Bolivar.
  • Wellsville Police Department, 46 South Main Street, Wellsville.

The Take It to the Box locations are available year-round and a free to community members. They are completely anonymous and confidential. Once the boxes are full the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office empties them and takes the collected medications to an incinerating location in Niagara County that renders the medications inert and harmless to the environment. In 2021 community members have dropped off almost 700 pounds of medications to the Take It to the Box locations.

Safe Disposal doesn’t only include medications, but also needles and sharps. Allegany County is only 1 of 2 counties that offers free disposal of needles or sharps to their community members. Anyone who wants to dispose of needles or sharps can take them to any transfer station in Allegany County. These locations are:

  • Alfred, 394 Satterlee Hill Road.

Open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 8am to 3:30pm.

  • Belmont, 6006 County Road 48.

Open Tuesday through Saturday, 8am to 3:30pm.

  • Bolivar, 135 Reed Street.

Open Wednesday and Saturday, 8am to 3:30pm.

  • Caneadea, 9425 Molyneaux Road.

Open Wednesday and Saturday, 8am to 3:30pm.

  • Canaseraga, 89 West Main Street.

Open Saturday, 8am to 3:30pm.

  • Cuba/Friendship, 7912 County Road 20.

Open Thursday and Saturday, 8am to 3:30pm.

  • Wellsville, 77 Dyke Street.

Open Tuesday through Saturday, 8am to 3:30pm.

We ask that before you dispose of your needles or sharps at any of these locations, please put them in a puncture proof container with a secure lid, such as a laundry detergent bottle. We want to protect people from unintentional pokes, for their safety. Before you put the bottle in the disposal box, please make sure the lid is tight.

By taking these steps we will make sure that prescription medications stay off our streets and out of the hands of our youth.

Remember Prevention Works!

Resources

National Prevention Week 585 Prevention Podcast with ACASA’s Community Educator Ann Weaver.

Allegany County’s 2021 Spring Pill Drop

Andover and Friendship, NY – This past Saturday, April 24, was the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) first National Prescription Drug Take Back of 2021. Like so many communities across the country, Allegany County had two locations at the Andover Volunteer Ambulance Corp and Friendship Fire Department where community members could drop off unwanted or unused medications.

The pill drop events have been taking place in Allegany County since 2008. This has been a partnership between the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office, the Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Inc. (ACASA), and Partners for Prevention in Allegany County (PPAC). “These events are an outlet for community members to get rid of old or unused medications in a safe manner and allows us the opportunity to educate them on resources available to them all year long,” said Coalition Coordinator Jon Chaffee. “We really want the community to practice Safe Use, Safe Storage, and Safe Disposal,” says Chaffee.

This year, 35 cars participated, for a total of 197.2 pounds of medications brought in by community members. “The Sheriff’s Office is happy to partner with PPAC for this important event as it gives our community an opportunity to help prevent drug addiction and overdoses, and to help protect the environment,” said Sheriff Rick Whitney. While community members were able to get rid of medications, they also received a Take It to the Box magnet that lists all the locations throughout the county. Community members are encouraged to not hold on to old medications and properly dispose of unwanted or unused medications, as family members are the most likely source for young people to get medications to abuse.

If community members were unable to participate in the Spring Pill Drop, Allegany County has ten Take It to the Box locations throughout the county at: Alfred Pharmacy, Alfred State University Police, the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office and Nicholson Pharmacy in Belmont, Cuba Police Department, Friendship Pharmacy, Fillmore Pharmacy, Jones Memorial Hospital in Wellsville, Jones Memorial Medical Practice in Bolivar, and Wellsville Police Department. In 2021, 685 pounds of medications have been collected at the Take It to the Box locations by the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office. For more information on local pill drop boxes visit Take It to the Box.

For any community members who need to dispose of needles, they can go to any transfer station in Allegany County, as they have disposal boxes that are free to use and are available all year. To properly dispose of needles at a transfer station, please put all needles/sharps into a puncture proof container with a securable lid, such as a laundry detergent bottle. Community members can drop the whole bottle into the drop box at any Allegany County transfer station. To protect people from accidental pokes by needles, please make sure the lid is secure on the bottle and do not put loose needles inside the boxes. For more information on locally disposing of needles/sharps visit Sharps Take It to the Box.

The group would like to also thank the Andover Police Department and Volunteer Ambulance Corp, Friendship Fire Department and all the community members who participated to make the Take Back Day a successful one. For more information on pill drops or PPAC please visit www.ppaccentral.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram @ppac_central, or Twitter @PPACcentral.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

This April marks the 35th “Alcohol Awareness Month: For the Health of It – Early Education on Alcoholism and Addiction” as the theme for 2021.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), 261 deaths occur daily in the United States due to excessive alcohol use.  Binge drinking is the most common form of excessive drinking, defined as consuming four or more drinks on a single occasion for women, and five or more drinks for men.  Heavy drinking is defined as consuming eight or more drinks per week for women and fifteen or more for men.  Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include unconsciousness, abnormally slow breathing, and cold, clammy skin.

Young people who begin to drink before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who abstain until age 21.  This is partly due to the fact that the brain is not fully developed until age 25.  Underage drinking interferes with the functioning of the brain, including the hippocampus, which is responsible for forming and storing new memories.  The corpus callosum, which is a cable of nerves that connects the two hemispheres of the brain, is involved with creativity and problem solving and changes significantly during adolescence.   A lower dosage of alcohol will damage a young brain compared to a fully mature brain, and young brains are damaged more quickly.  Alcohol exposure during adolescence is linked with a reduced ability to learn, compared to non-exposure until adulthood, and at both two and four-year colleges, the heaviest drinkers attain the lowest grades. 

The earlier the brain is “turned on” by a substance, the more difficult it is to “turn it off”, as the brain seeks to repeat the pleasurable effects of the substance.  Drinking alcohol is also associated with the leading causes of death among young people, including car crashes, murder, and suicide.

Unfortunately, many young people use alcohol and marijuana simultaneously.  Information obtained in the last decade has indicated that the combination may cause individuals to overuse both substances, which can result in death.  A side effect of smoking marijuana, called “greening out,” is more likely to occur if a person drinks alcohol before smoking.  The affected individual may go pale and sweaty, feel dizzy with “the spins”, experience nausea, begin to vomit, and desire to lie down.  If a person smokes before drinking, it becomes easier to drink excessively and risk death by alcohol poisoning.

The body typically recognizes alcohol as a poison when it has consumed it to excess, and the response is to vomit.  According to Northeastern University, marijuana has an antiemetic effect, which means that vomiting becomes more difficult or is prevented.  This can result in the body not being able to rid itself of dangerous toxins, or a person choking on his/her vomit.

The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain where judgement is found and is the last part of the brain to develop, as the brain develops from the back of the head to the front.  Judgement is also the first part of the brain to be affected by alcohol, which is why decision-making is altered by even one drink.  As a depressant, alcohol slows down the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), and the THC in marijuana is absorbed into the blood faster with the presence of alcohol.  The magnified effects may cause panic, paranoia, anxiety, and terror that may result in flawed or even fatal choices.                 

According to evidence documented by SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), rates of alcohol sales continue to rise in states that have legalized recreational marijuana.  The solution to keeping our youth safe from substance use it to talk early and often.  Research has shown that kids are 50% less likely to experiment with alcohol if they learn about the dangers of underage drinking from their parents.

Visit Talk2Prevent Parent Toolkit for conversation starters and go to Smart Approaches to Marijuana for a wealth of information on marijuana facts.

Remember, Prevention Works!   

Resources

March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Similar to last year, we’ve selected artwork featured at local DC studio Art Enables to serve as logo imagery for DD Awareness Month. This year we have artwork from artist Eileen Schofield. Feel free to use it in your own branding!

Spurred by advocacy, President Ronald Reagan declared March to be Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in 1987. The deinstitutionalization movement of the seventies and early eighties had laid the foundation for significant social change, and the presidential proclamation called upon Americans to provide the “encouragement and opportunities” necessary for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to reach their potential.

As those citizens began living within the general community in larger numbers, programs to provide career planning, job coaching and supported employment began to emerge. The idea that individuals with developmental disabilities could become productive members of the workforce was new to many people, and entrenched preconceptions had to be overcome.

With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, workplace discrimination against people with disabilities became sanctionable. The expectations of young people with developmental disabilities and their parents began to shift. Productive, self-directed lives within the community increasingly became the goal, and (increasingly) an obtainable goal.

Now 34 years later, the month of March highlights the contributions and needs of the estimated four million Americans living with a developmental disability. The power of ability over disability is all around us as people with autism, cerebral palsy and other disabilities blaze new trails. Today, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are living and working in the community; pursuing higher education; developing their faith; falling in love and getting married; and making their voices heard in all aspects of life.

As people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the nation become increasingly visible in our daily lives, the Arc Allegany-Steuben strives to build more welcoming communities through education and outreach. We hope you will join us this month as we celebrate the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Developmental disabilities awareness starts now.

Learn how the Arc Allegany-Steuben’s supports and services are advancing the concerns and interests of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Allegany and Steuben Counties by visiting www.thearcas.org

Resources

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month Social Media Logos

Children of Addictions Awareness Week

The week of February 14th marks the Children of Addiction Awareness week, formerly known as Children of Alcoholics Awareness week, a campaign led by The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA) to raise awareness of children affected by parental alcohol problems.  NACoA is now known as The National Association for Children of Addiction, as 1 in 7 people will experience a substance use disorder, and 18 million children are directly affected.  COAs are more likely than others to have emotional, psychological, or physical problems related to their childhood.  Many develop an alcohol problem and/or other addictive habits, and/or marry someone with an alcohol problem or some other type of addiction.  COAs often learn special rules and roles, which include attempting to protect the family image, keeping feelings to themselves, not trusting others, assuming parental responsibilities, excelling at school, trying to make others feel better, adapting to situations in a detached fashion, or using negative behavior to attract attention.  If these behaviors are not addressed, an adult child of an alcoholic (ACOA) may have trouble expressing feelings, can’t seem to relax, are loyal to others beyond reason, are overly responsible, fear losing control, fear being abandoned, are overly self-critical, and have difficulty with relationships.  In general, COAs have higher rates of stress-related illnesses and conditions, including ulcers, depression, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, tension, anxiety, and eating disorders.  The positive news is that help is available, and COAs can be helped even when their parent continues to drink.  It is important that COAs recognize the special risks they face, understand how past experiences may be affecting their lives, and get the kind of help that is best for them. For more information visit NACoA and COA Awareness Week.

Resources

New Year, New Start!

New Year’s Day symbolizes fresh starts and new beginnings. People use January as a benchmark to reprioritize their lives, and with the unique challenges that last year brought, many of us are looking ahead with even more fervor.

Something that 2020 brought clearly into focus is the importance of mental wellness. A variety of factors can impact mental health, including thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Problems related to gambling can influence each of those components. If gambling, yours or someone else’s, has negatively affected you, know that you are not alone and there is support.

Nearly 668,000 New Yorkers have experienced a gambling problem in the past year. The effects can include sleep issues, strain on relationships with loved ones, financial problems and increased alcohol or drug use.  People who struggle with problem gambling are also at a higher risk for other mental health problems. Two out of three individuals reported that their mental health suffered as a result of their gambling. Gambling disorder may also occur with other existing conditions like anxiety, depression, mood disorder or personality disorder.

Emotional and psychological distress is not exclusive to just the person gambling either – each of those individuals can affect up to 10 of the closest people in their lives. A study found that nine out of 10 people impacted by someone else’s gambling problems felt emotional distress. Between the people gambling and their close friends and family, nearly 6.7 million New Yorkers are affected by problem gambling and may experience mental health issues because of it. 

Most importantly, help is available if you or someone you love has been exhibiting warning signs of a gambling problem, such as being absent from activities with friends or loved ones because of gambling; feeling stressed or anxious when not gambling; low work performance due to absence or preoccupation with gambling; or lying to family and friends about how much money and time is spent on gambling. January is a great time to reach out to the Western Problem Gambling Resource Center (PGRC).

The Western PGRC is here to help anyone who is looking to reprioritize their lives and overcome the problems that gambling has caused. Private-practice counselors, behavioral health and treatment facilities, recovery groups and other community services throughout Western New York make up a vast referral network. When people call (716) 833-4274 or email WesternPGRC@nyproblemgambling.org, they confidentially connect with a knowledgeable PGRC staff person who will listen to and connect them with the resources that best meet their needs. Whether you are ready to get help, or you are just curious about your options, call us today. We’re here to help.

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, and this year’s theme is “Best for You. Best for Baby”.  Leading prenatal health experts from the National Birth Defects Prevention Network, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, March of Dimes, Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention, and MotherToBaby have partnered to increase awareness to reduce the chances of babies born with birth defects.  One critical area is that of avoiding harmful substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.  There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy or when trying to get pregnant.  A developing baby is exposed to the same concentration of alcohol as the mother during pregnancy, which can result in a wide range of lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities.  Alcohol and tobacco use can each increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  Alcohol use may also make it more difficult for a woman to become pregnant.

Tobacco use in any form can harm an unborn baby.  Carbon monoxide, a toxic gas found in cigarette smoke, lowers oxygen levels in the mother’s blood, which means there is also less oxygen for the baby.  Nicotine, the addictive drug found in tobacco, reduces blood flow by causing blood vessels to narrow.  This means that fewer nutrients can reach the baby.  Pregnant women who smoke have more problems with pregnancy and delivery than nonsmokers do and may have a baby with low birth weight.

Chemicals in marijuana pass through the mother and can harm a baby’s development, and opioid exposure during pregnancy can cause Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), a condition in which the newborn experiences withdrawal from the substance and possible premature birth. 

Let’s support our future generation of babies by encouraging potential mothers to choose a healthy lifestyle free of substances!  Be an active participant in this important Prevention Month by visiting the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) website for “Five Tips for Preventing Birth Defects” and downloading the entire 2021 toolkit!  For assistance with a substance use disorder, call the Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse’s Clinic at 585-593-6738. 

Remember, prevention works!

Western New York Reality Check Names Student Art Contest Winners to Celebrate Great American Smokeout 2020

In coordination with this year’s Great American Smokeout (GASO), more than 30 students responded to honor the national event, observed today, November 19, this year. The Reality Check art contest focused on the dangers of tobacco use. Artists were encouraged to depict why they want their communities to establish a tobacco-free policy.

Students could submit art as a poster, comic, photo, video, or poem. The winning artwork was selected by Reality Check youth coordinators based upon creativity, use of messaging and originality.

Warsaw High School youth artist Payton was named the first-place winner of the poster contest. Her art depicted a person in the foreground being snuffed out with a giant cigarette with the headline: “Put It Out Before It Puts You Out.” The strong messaging and the lifelike image of the hand struck the jury. Second prize was awarded to Jerzie, a student at Falconer High School, who portrayed a tombstone of her great grandmother with the headline, “I Never Knew You Because Of Cigarettes.” Southwestern Middle School youth artist Meredith poster had the message of “Don’t You Recognize Me Anymore” which shows a smoking skeleton with black lungs.

Selena, of Fillmore Central was awarded first place in the poem category for a piece titled,

“Smoke Out.”

All forms of tobacco are bad.

Sometimes they can make you sad.

What’s the point of ruining your life.

You don’t want to kill the wildlife.

Cigarette butts pollute the earth.

And they affect birth.

Ask for help.

Before you ruin what’s in your scalp.

Kyra, of the Olean High School was awarded first place for video category by depicting nicotine addiction and health issues through dinosaurs.

“Talented students from across the region responded to our art contest, which made judging a challenge,” said Jonathan Chaffee, Reality Check Coordinator of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany. “I hope the efforts of our students will inspire others to think about the health impacts of tobacco use, refrain from littering cigarette butts and vape pods, and protect our community members, as well as spaces where we all live, work and play, for generations to come.”

The American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout is an annual event that encourages and offers support to smokers to who plan to quit smoking or to quit smoking on the day of the event – Thursday, November 19. By quitting – even for one day – smokers will be taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk.

With COVID-19 concerns, there has never been a better time to quit. Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, including the lungs. In addition to causing lung cancer, smoking also makes chronic lung disease worse and increases the risk of severe illness from infections like pneumonia and the flu. Adults who smoke have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, as well.

Reality Check is a teen-led, adult-run program that seeks to prevent and decrease tobacco use among young people throughout New York State.

For more information about Reality Check, visit realitycheckofny.org.

GREAT AMERICAN SMOKEOUT

Thursday, November 19th, marks the 45th Great American Smokeout, a day set aside for smokers and other tobacco users to abstain for at least one day, in hopes that people will quit completely.  The idea began in 1971 when Arthur Mullaney, a Massachusetts resident, asked people to quit smoking for a day and donate the money they would have spent on tobacco to a local school.  Shortly after Monticello Times editor Lynn Smith led Minnesota’s first “D-Day” (Don’t Smoke Day), the American Cancer Society’s California chapter encouraged nearly one million smokers to quit for the day on November 18, 1976.  Due to the success in California, the ACS took the event nationwide in 1977, maintaining the third Thursday in November as the target date.

So why in 2020, during a pandemic, do we continue to focus on issues like smoking and vaping?  The Great American Smokeout (GASO) draws attention to preventing the deaths and chronic illnesses caused by smoking and vaping. It also still serves as a motivator for individuals to quit smoking (even for a day). An important side benefit of this day is that it has also served to help motivate individuals, organizations, State and Federal governments to begin to explore and enact legislation and policies on tobacco product advertising, marketing to children and tobacco-free environments. 

Many states have now enacted strong tobacco control laws that have helped drive positive change. Cigarette smoking has declined over the past fifty years, from 42% in 1965 to 13.7% in 2019, but the declines have not benefitted our population equally. Some groups smoke more heavily or at higher rates and suffer more from smoking-related diseases.  These populations tend to be those who experience inequities in multiple areas of their lives, including those at lower socioeconomic levels, those without college degrees, American Indians/Alaska Natives, African American/Black communities, LGBTQ communities, those in the military, those with behavioral health conditions, and others.  Some of these inequities can be found right in Allegany County by looking at smoking and vaping rates of high school seniors. In New York State, 4.8% of high school students smoke cigarettes compared to 10.8% of high school students in Allegany County. Vaping rates are even more alarming: in New York State, 36.7% of high school seniors vaped, in Allegany County 38.5% of high school seniors vaped. The Allegany County percentages come from the Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc.’s Risk and Protective Survey that is completed every two years by sixth, eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades throughout the county. When discussing adults, Allegany County ranks as one of the highest counties in New York as having high averages of death caused by lung cancer and heart disease, to which smoking is a large contributor.

32.4 million American adults still smoke cigarettes, and smoking is still the largest preventable cause of death and illness in our country and around the world. More than 480,000 deaths in the US are caused by smoking every year.   This is 20% of all deaths – every year.  To add to that misery, more than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease. 

Research shows that smokers are most successful in “kicking the habit” when they have some means of support, such as nicotine replacement products, counseling, prescription medicines to lessen cravings, guide books, and the encouragement of friends and family members.

“Chew on This: The Need to Engage Your Mouth and Hands After Quitting,” article by the Quitter’s Circle Staff on 3/10/15 cites that a common theme among ex-smokers and those trying to quit, can be fidgety hands and the need to chew gum, toothpicks, or other foods.  Some quitters miss the sensation of a cigarette in their hands or between their teeth.  Testimonials often reveal that smokers become used to having a cigarette in their mouths.  The habit of picking up a cigarette and placing it between one’s lips becomes a routine of comfort.  In addition, the habit of moving one’s hand from cigarette to mouth is repeated so often that quitters and those attempting to quit feel the need to do something with their hands.  This article is one of many that contains this kind of information.  

In light of this, it would stand to reason that e-cigarettes are not an effective cessation tool for most people, as the hand-to-mouth habit of using an e-cigarette reinforces the behavior that potential quitters are aiming to break.  The use of an e-cigarette, which replicates the experience of smoking, may be a drawback to quitting.  Harvey B. Simon, MD, editor of “Harvard Health,” stated in an article dated 9/22/11 that, “By simulating the cigarette experience, e-cigarettes may reactivate the habit in ex-smokers.”

Communities, landlords, and employers can also help smokers become successes in quitting. Communities can make public places tobacco free, such as parks. This can have three desired effects: one, it encourages current smokers to quit; two, it models appropriate behavior to young people so they never start using tobacco products; three, it protects our environment from tobacco litter. Studies have shown that one cigarette butt can litter 500 liters of water, which exceeds 132 gallons. Landlords can make their apartment buildings smoke free, which encourages smokers to quit and protects residents from secondhand and thirdhand smoke, which is dangerous to humans and animals. The last policy change can be implemented by employers to make their workplace and even their vehicles tobacco free, which encourages tobacco users to quit. It is estimated that smoking causes over seven billion dollars in productivity losses each year in New York State alone. All three of these policies have been proven to be an effective way to encourage current tobacco users to quit and discourage young people from starting. 

More information on these policies can be found at tobaccofreenys.org, or through Tobacco Free Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany by emailing Community Engagement Coordinator Ken Dahlgren at kenneth.dahlgren@roswellpark.org.

According to the ACS, 1 in 5 deaths in the United States is smoking related, and 87% of lung cancer deaths are attributed to smoking.  Lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer death, is also the most preventable.  If you would like to “kick the habit”, but you are not sure what steps to take, call the Allegany Council at 585-593-1920, x 713, for tips on how to quit and stay quit.  Assistance is also available for users of smokeless tobacco.

Don’t allow yourself to become a replacement smoker or a statistic…join millions of Americans today on a journey to a healthier you!

Resources