Long Island’s many existing smoking cessation programs might soon get a slew of calls from smokers attempting to quit. So they hope, at least.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently announced a new set of anti-smoking ads -- several more in the style of “Tips from a Former Smoker” -- which began airing on TV and radio on Monday, as well as appearing in newspapers and magazines, on billboards and online. The new bunch features gum disease and tooth loss as well as smoking’s impact on pregnancy, babies, and people with HIV.
“There’s definitely an uptick of people calling to make cessation attempts whenever any of those ads run,” says Dan Jacobsen, a nurse practitioner with North Shore-LIJ's Center for Tobacco Control, “between our class and the New York State Smokers Quitline.”
For those who want to quit, there are several options around Long Island.
For example, North Shore-LIJ runs free smoking cessation classes several times a year as well as a weekly support group for quitters who have completed their six-week series. Suffolk County runs a “Learn to Be … Tobacco Free” program that also offers cessation classes at no cost.
County Executive Steve Bellone and County Commissioner of Health Services, Dr. James Tomarken, issued an announcement last week that pointed residents toward the program’s resources in advance of the CDC’s upcoming campaign.
“The ads will bring to life the devastating effects of smoking,” said Tomarken in the announcement, posted on the county website. “We anticipate that the ads will encourage smokers to want to prevent these realities from happening to them. We’ve got a program for that.”
But you never know what will help push someone to try quitting, says Rhoda Nichter, who leads cessation classes at St. Francis Hospital DeMatteis Center. “Someone might see a real scary ad, with someone who had their larynx removed,” she says, and that will help them. Or, they might “turn it off and never want to think about it.”
“People think, ‘Oh, no one smokes anymore,’” Jacobsen says. But that’s not true. When North Shore LIJ announced the new grant in April, there were an estimated 367,000 adult smokers on Long Island.
“We haven’t beaten this,” Jacobsen says. “It’s still a big issue.”
Coinciding with the new ads, the North Shore-LIJ Health System begins receiving a five year grant this month for its Center for Tobacco Control. The $1.5 million grant does not go toward funding for cessation classes, which will continue separately. Instead, it will target institutions and major health care systems to change policies at the top.
The grant will also “help Long Island’s most vulnerable populations to quit smoking,” according to the April announcement, including those living under the poverty line or with mental illness. The Center for Tobacco Control will partner with Federally Qualified Health Centers that serve low-income Medicaid patients as well as with mental health facilities, Jacobsen says, “to finally have an impact on those ... that still smoke in high numbers.”
And as hospitals and other systems make the transition from paper charts to electronic medical record (EMRs), Jacobsen explains, it’s an opportunity to incorporate questions about smoking and conversations about quitting into standard practice.
“If we can get it in the policy that every patient who comes through the door gets the same treatment,” Jacobsen says, “I think we’ll have a much bigger impact.”
As for smokers who see the CDC’s new ads, or are otherwise stirred to quit, there are plenty of options for smoking cessation classes on Long Island, many of them free.
“Smoking is so bad for you, you should pull out all the stops,” says Mara Bernstein, a tobacco cessation specialist at Winthrop-University Hospital’s Wellness Pavilion, where new classes begin every month. “Keep trying until you beat that horrible habit.”