On Thursday, November 21, the 38th annual Great American Smokeout will encourage everyone to lead tobacco-free lives that will prevent tobacco-related diseases and improve overall health and quality of life. While the event is aimed at getting smokers to quit, Fargo Cass Public Health (FCPH) and the Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy (the Center) focus on ways to prevent tobacco use.
Smoking and secondhand smoke are known causes of cancer, COPD, stroke, heart disease, heart attacks and other serious health issues. Every year, tobacco use kills over 800 North Dakotans and costs $247 million in annual health care expenses. Several Surgeon General reports have demonstrated that the best way to prevent tobacco-related disease is to never start using tobacco in the first place.
According to FCPH and the Center, tobacco prevention efforts are more important than ever because tobacco companies are finding new ways to market their products to youth. Brightly-colored packaging and fruit-flavored tobacco products that look and taste like candy are used to entice children to try tobacco.
“The number of fruit- or candy-flavored tobacco products has skyrocketed in recent years specifically because they appeal to children,” said Holly Scott, tobacco prevention coordinator with Fargo Cass Public Health. “That’s why we focus on prevention, especially at a young age. We want our kids to be smarter than the tobacco companies’ marketing ploys.”
In addition to brightly-colored packaging and fruit-flavored products, tobacco companies use special discounts and promotions that make their products cheap to buy. Tobacco companies also work with retailers and distributors to make sure these addictive nicotine products get placed in highly visible areas that appeal to youth, such as near candy displays or at the checkout counter.
“Tobacco companies are using whatever tricks they can to get kids to try their products,” said Jeanne Prom, executive director for the Center. “Tobacco companies are big businesses and they work hard to replace the thousands of customers who die each year.”
According to Prom, the Center is committed to educating the public on the benefits of adopting policies to protect our youth from a lifetime addiction to nicotine.
“One day, we hope to not even need events like the Great American Smokeout because smoking will no longer be a major public health threat,” said Prom. “That’s why tobacco prevention programs are so important.”
To learn more about tobacco prevention programs and education materials, contact Fargo Cass Public Health at 701-241-8576 or visit fargocasspublichealth.com. For more information about quitting tobacco call 1-800-QUIT.NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit www.ndhealth.gov/ndquits.