(03/15/2002)

About twenty-five citizens attend "Communities of Excellence"

Calhoun leaders and interested citizens learned how the county can work on developing a tobacco control program using the American Cancer Society's "Communities of Excellence." The meeting was held Thursday at the Calhoun County Library.

Michelle Stevens of the American Cancer Society gave good marks to the current tobacco control program led by Carlene Frederick, but indicated a planning process to implement a comprehensive tobacco control program for the county is needed. About twenty-five individuals attended the session.

Michelle Stevens from American Cancer Society does training

Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disability and death in America. 400,000 deaths are attributed to smoking each year, which is one in five deaths by all causes.

More women die from lung cancer than breast cancer. At least 3000 new kids pick-up and smoke every day. West Virginian's are among the highest number of users of tobacco in America, from cigarettes to smokeless tobacco. 60,000 people, according to the American Cancer Society, die of secondhand smoke each year.

West Virginia is receiving about $35 million annually from the tobacco settlement, with about $5 million actually going toward tobacco control. The current legislature almost removed the money from tobacco control programs to fund short-falls in the teacher retirement fund and other projects. The $5 million was restored.

"Communities of Excellence" encourages people to become pro-active in reducing tobacco use through prevention, cessation services, law enforcement and other unified approaches to prevent people from becoming addicted and dying. The cost to the nation's health care system is enormous.

There was some discussion about encouraging the federal government to discontinue its split approach on tobacco, treating it as the nation's #1 health problem, while at the same time subsidizing tobacco farmers and spending millions of dollars to help the tobacco companies market tobacco in foreign counties.


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