Brooklyn Smoke-Free Partnership aims to protect public health

February 7, 2013 Anna Spivak
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In Brooklyn, nearly 5,000 public high school students currently smoke cigarettes. That’s a staggering and unfortunately ascending statistic compared to the 35 percent drop in New York City adult smokers since 2002.

While New York has made notable strides toward becoming a more smoke-free city, tobacco use continues to inflict a terrible toll on residents. On January 22, tobacco control activists from around New York State traveled to Albany to update state legislators on their progress and continued work in protecting public health, and the need to reach out to at-risk populations.

Among them was the Brooklyn Smoke-Free Partnership, a dedicated, health advocacy group aimed at increasing awareness of tobacco control issues in the borough. Its mission is to promote a tobacco-free society that benefits the health of all Brooklyn residents.

Rachelle Rochelle, borough manager of the Brooklyn Smoke-Free Partnership, said, “This annual journey upstate to meet with our legislators is an incredibly important piece of our work. It allows our young people and community partners to sit down and just talk with their representative.”

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Among the leaders in attendance was Sheelah Feinberg, executive director of the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City. She noted, “Our meeting with state legislators was a tremendous opportunity to discuss with our elected officials the tobacco control strategies and successes that benefit all New York City residents, especially our city’s most vulnerable.

“The NYC Coalition coordinates with community members, allied health partners and neighborhood organizations in all five boroughs to provide community level programs that reach disadvantaged urban neighborhoods,” Feinberg went on.

These include initiatives of the New York State Tobacco Control Program such as community partnerships, grass-roots groups that advocate for tobacco control; tobacco cessation centers; Reality Check, in which adults mentor young people in their efforts to raise awareness among their peers of the impact of tobacco and the ways that tobacco marketing is deceptive; and the New York State Smokers’ Quitline, accessible via phone and on line, that provides counseling as well as start kits of nicotine patches for smokers who want to shake the habit.

According to the coalition, in New York State, annually, over 25,400 lives are lost due to tobacco use, costing an estimated $8.17 billion each year in health care expenditures, with revenue from tobacco sales in New York State in 2012 amounting to a startling $737,740,683.17, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Said Rochelle, “The working poor and minorities are among the hardest hit by tobacco use. Tobacco control programs help those who need it most.” Rochelle added that tobacco control programs are a “wise investment” and “pay for themselves by preventing illness, saving lives and reducing health care costs.”

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