TALLAHASSEE, Fla., March 29, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — The Florida Department of Health and Tobacco Free Florida officially announce the third annual Tobacco Free Florida Week (TFFW), March 28-April 2. The observance celebrates the state’s progress in reducing smoking rates across the state, as well as significant decreases in personal and state healthcare expenditures. The theme for this year’s Tobacco Free Florida Week is Tobacco Free Florida: Saving Lives, Saving Money.
In 2006 the citizens of Florida mandated the comprehensive tobacco education and use prevention program and its funding by passing a constitutional amendment. In 2007 the Bureau of Tobacco Prevention Program (BTPP) was established(1). Since that time, adult tobacco use rates which had remained steady for 10 years at over 20 percent have dropped to 17.1 percent in 2009 – well below the national average of 20.6 percent – a trend that has resulted in nearly 500,000 fewer Floridian smokers(2).
During this time period, from 2006 to 2009, annual personal healthcare expenditures related to smoking have declined by $1 billion and as much as $4.2 billion in total personal healthcare expenditures have been saved as a result of the reduction in adult smoking rates(3). Lower healthcare costs mean more funds available for investment in business assets and a healthier workforce, which equals increased productivity. In addition, those former smokers are no longer spending money on tobacco products, allowing that money to be spent in other ways for their families, totaling hundreds to thousands of dollars each year per smoker.
“Tobacco use remains the number-one preventable cause of death and disease in our state, and we are simply losing too many of our friends, family members, and neighbors each year to tobacco use,” said Kim Berfield, Deputy Secretary of Policy and Advocacy for the Florida Department of Health.
“While the personal loss is the most difficult to bear, the financial impact of tobacco use on our families, our state, and taxpayers is significant as well. The dramatic results reached through comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation measures are proving that we can Save Lives and Save Money as we work toward the goal of a tobacco free Florida.”
Effective programs don’t end at preventing youth from starting and helping people quit, but also protect the public from exposure to secondhand smoke. Despite marked progress in Florida over the past several years, non-smokers continue to be affected by the dangers of secondhand smoke. According to the 2010 Surgeon General’s Report, there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds and even brief and low levels of exposure to smoke can lead to rapid and sharp inflammation of the lining of blood vessels, which could contribute to stroke or heart attacks.
In Florida, over 290,000 fewer youth are living in a home where someone else smokes(4). This progress is critically important and Tobacco Free Florida is currently running advertising across the state designed to educate Floridians about the importance of clean indoor air not only for kids, but also for the protection of other adults.
While Tobacco Free Florida encourages adults to consider quitting, youth are encouraged to be educated and empowered to choose not to use tobacco and also support their friends who choose not to smoke or use smokeless tobacco products. Over the past five years, smokeless tobacco use has trended upward amongst Florida’s middle school and high school students(5). Collaborative efforts with SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco), the Bureau’s statewide youth organization, include the unveiling of a new Candy Flavored Tobacco surveillance photo contest this month.
“We see more and more tobacco products every day and too many young people are still getting hooked,” said Kahreem Golden (Putnam County), Youth Advocacy Board Chair of SWAT. “Today, even though cigarette manufacturers are banned from selling candy-flavored cigarettes, candy flavored tobacco is readily available and comes in a variety of flavors that appeal to kids, yet many think they are harmless.”
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