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April 3, 2014

HamCo school district urged to implement tobacco cessation program

Jasper — Members of the Hamilton County chapter of the Tobacco Free Florida Partnership program gave a presentation to the school board at their March 10 meeting.

“We’re here also to thank you, the school board and the superintendent, for allowing us to go into the schools and present the programs that will help our students to not use tobacco products,” said Brenda Carter.

Carter noted that the Hamilton County School District has implemented 12 of 12 components for comprehensive school policy. She said the county should be proud of the fact that they do not allow tobacco or tobacco products on their school campuses.

“Congratulations on a job well done,” said Carter.

Grace McDonald told the school board, “You’ve been the leader in our community. You’re the only employer or business or agency that has a 100 percent tobacco free campus. That makes you a lead organization.”

McDonald said 42.1 percent of Hamilton County residents are still tobacco users, though.

“The majority of them smoke, but we still have quite a few that use smokeless tobacco,” said McDonald. “When we look at Hamilton County compared to Florida, we are like double the rest of the state,” she said. “That means we’ve got our work cut out for us for the health of our community.”

McDonald said there are about 266 people employed by the school district and if you work the numbers it could mean that about 112 of them are tobacco users, which equates to over a half million dollars in lost productivity, due to tobacco related sickness and time off from work. Medical cost losses, she said, could be over $200,000.

“When we put all that together, we’re getting close to $1 million that it’s costing this county because people have a problem of use of tobacco,” McDonald said. “It’s an addiction. They’re suffering because it’s costing them, too.”

For people who are trying to quit, McDonald said they often feel frustrated, disappointed, hopeless and alone because on average it takes about four tries for a smoker to quit.

McDonald said there are several free resources for those who want to quit tobacco use that include nicotine replacement patches, gum and lozenges, group counseling, individual treatment plans, as well as a six week program called “Quit Smoking Now”.

McDonald asked the board to consider implementing a tobacco cessation program for school employees for the next school year in conjunction with their insurance provider.

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