MASSENA - St. Lawrence County Tobacco Free Community Partnership Program Coordinator Benjamin R. Todd appeared at this weeks Massena Village Board meeting to focus on two things; the dangerous costs of tobacco products, both monetarily and health wise.
Mr. Todd has spent parts of the past few months making his way across St. Lawrence County promoting his tobacco-free campaign. Earlier in 2013, Mr. Todd successfully lobbied the Massena Recreation Department to promote his campaign, and in July he talked to the Norfolk Town Board about the dangers of tobacco usage, specifically for young people.
At the end of July the partnership teamed up with Pizza Hut restaurants in the area to celebrate the 10th anniversary of New Yorks Clean Indoor Air Act.
During the public comment period of Tuesdays meeting, Mr. Todd informed board members and the public of some alarming facts.
I really wanted to come in and kind of refresh your memories on some of the information I presented in the past and bring to light some of the issues that were seeing currently. I think its really important to remind people that tobacco related illnesses are the leading cause of preventable death in this country. Every year we see almost half a million people die from tobacco related illnesses and sometimes that kind of gets overshadowed by other issues we deal with, Mr. Todd said.
Really a key point here is 90 percent of smokers start between the ages of 12 and 18, so we really need to focus on what is the cause of these kids starting or experimenting with tobacco.
The other big issue is the cost associated with tobacco related illnesses. In New York state, we spend over $8 billion a year to treat these illnesses - $3.7 billion of that is Medicaid and in St. Lawrence County alone, we spend over $9 million a year of taxpayer money to treat tobacco related illnesses.
Mr. Todd pointed out that tobacco marketing is a crucial component leading teenagers to experiment with these products. He also said that this is an important issue to tackle since it is something that people can control.
The one thing we can effect, the one thing we can do something about, is youth exposure to tobacco marketing. Frankly, theres too much marketing in the stores and now were seeing new products coming into the market, new flavored tobacco products, he said.
I bring that up because in the last couple of years weve seen more tobacco retailers coming into the county with Family Dollar starting to sell tobacco. They knew that the people who shop at those stores buy more cigarettes than the average person so they got into the market. Since then, Dollar General has gotten into the market, he said. So weve got now a dozen more retailers in this county where kids go in with their parents and the last thing they see before they leave is a wall of cigarette, Mr. Todd added.
Its there, we know the industry is very keen to what influences kids and thats why Im here. I wanted to make sure youre aware of that because the costs are very high, both monetarily and health wise and we know nicotines addictive. We need to get in the way of these things.
Mayor James F. Hidy brought up the issue of residents who utilize social services spending money on tobacco products.
People that are in social services, we see them (with) cigarettes, tattoos and pit bulls, this and that; you talked about controlling costs. Again, thats a major cost that a taxpayers filtering money to help people stay afloat or to eat, but yet now were seeing them buy cigarettes and whatever else they get, Mr. Hidy charged.