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Five years later: A Look at Tobacco Control in Florida

This week marks five years of progress for the Florida Department of Health's (DOH) Tobacco Free Florida (TFF) program and the state's commitment to saving lives and money by reducing tobacco use. The program was created in 2006 when Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment that called for a comprehensive tobacco education and use prevention program.

As a result of the amendment, Florida continues to be a leader in innovative and effective tobacco control with a comprehensive program that has a combined cessation, prevention and protection platform. TFF provides cessation services by phone, online and in-person, which offer nicotine replacement therapies to tobacco users in Florida.

"Comprehensive tobacco control programs like Tobacco Free Florida work," said Dr. Frank Farmer, Florida's State Surgeon General. "From 2007 to 2010, the smoking rate for adults in Florida decreased by 18.6 percent, resulting in nearly half a million fewer Floridian adult smokers an estimated savings of as much as $4.2 billion in personal health care expenditures."

The comprehensive program also works closely with community organizations and leaders through Tobacco Free Partnerships to strengthen their voice and to educate stakeholders about tobacco prevention efforts. TFF oversees prevention initiatives such as Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT). The overall impact of the program is monitored and measured through surveillance and evaluation procedures that provide recommendations for continual progress.

"Ninety percent of adult smokers begin in their teens, and we have seen impressive declines in youth smoking rates that we did in the early days of Florida's landmark tobacco prevention program," said Ralph DeVitto, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society's Florida Division, which led the 2006 ballot initiative to restore the state's effort in this arena. "Middle school and high school smoking rates have fallen by 42.6 and 17.9 percent respectively, which translates to a significant number of premature deaths averted."

In the past five years, TFF has made substantial progress in efforts to reduce the devastating effects of tobacco in Florida, where each year more than 28,700 Floridians die from smoking and tobacco-related diseases cost the state an estimated $19.6 million in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

"We are proud of Florida's hard work in the pursuit of healthy air and healthy lungs," said Brenda Olsen, chief operating officer for the American Lung Association in Florida. "Since the passage of the constitutional amendment to dedicate funding to the tobacco prevention program, we have seen great success in battling tobacco's deadly addiction in our state and saving the lives of our citizens."

While November marks the five year anniversary of the historic amendment to create TFF, there are several national tobacco-related observances this month that aim to educate smokers and non-smokers about the fight against tobacco and to provide opportunities to get involved and inspire tobacco-users to quit. They include:

-Lung Cancer Awareness Month - In Florida, an estimated 17,150 cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in 2011 and an estimated 11,460 will die from this disease. Smoking causes 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer cases. The longer a person smokes and the more cigarettes smoked each day, the more ones risk goes up.

-National COPD Awareness Month - November is COPD Awareness Month, sponsored by the US COPD Coalition. COPD is now the third leading cause of death in U.S. Cigarette smoking accounts for about 85 to 90 percent of all COPD cases.

-The Great American Smokeout- November 17 is the 36th annual Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. This event encourages smokers to commit to being tobacco-free for 24 hours and also challenges people to plan in advance and quit smoking that day, or to use the day to make a plan to quit. The event raises awareness about the dangers of smoking and the many effective ways available to successfully quit.

Published: Monday, November 07, 2011

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