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NAACP launches tobacco cessation program

MURFREESBORO – You can quit.

That’s the message local and state NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) officials are sending to African-American teens in an effort to help these young people kick the nicotine habit.

During a meeting held Saturday at Nebo Baptist Church, NAACP officials formally launched the “Quit Line” project.

Using printed materials outlining the health risks associated with tobacco products as well as dog tags and wrist bands, NAACP members were informed on how the program works.

This pilot project, using money provided through the NC Health and Wellness Trust Fund, runs Jan. 15 through Feb. 28 in Bertie, Edgecombe, Halifax, Hertford, Northampton and Warren counties.

“Our goal is to reach young African-Americans, ages 14-17, in an effort to stem the tide of teenage smoking, a habit that leads to cancer and other medical problems,” Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, President of the North Carolina Conference of the NAACP, said.

He continued, “The local branches here in your area are actively involved in this program. We all see it as a program that deserves our full attention due to the fact that 27 percent of African-Americans in North Carolina do not have health insurance. Cancer and other diseases generated through the use of tobacco are not cheap when it comes to treatment options.”

Rev. Dr. Barber implored the local NAACP chapter presidents to spread the word concerning a toll-free telephone number (1-877-YESQUIT, as stamped on the dog tags) that connects teenage smokers with someone to help them kick the habit.

Bennett Taylor, president of the Northampton County NAACP chapter, said he and his membership would help spread the word concerning the tobacco cessation program.

“We will be visiting the churches and businesses in Northampton County, asking for their help in getting this message out to our young people,” Taylor said. “We need to make every effort we can to help our teens to quit smoking.”

Halifax County NAACP President David Harvey said his members had already involved in the stop smoking campaign.

“We’re already about halfway down the road on this particular project,” Harvey said. “We have a very aggressive education committee within our chapter, one that will work closely with our churches and our schools to spread the word.”

Local public health departments are also involved in the program. Kathryn Sellers, Youth Tobacco Prevention Program Coordinator with the Hertford County Public Health Authority, attended Saturday’s meeting. Sellers said the Health Authority fully supported the NAACP’s efforts and offered any assistance needed by the group to help make the program a success.

By calling the toll-free number listed earlier, those interested in kicking the nicotine habit will receive a “quit kit” and referred to a person in their local area involved in tobacco prevention.

As part of the NAACP’s smoking cessation campaign, Sellers and other Tobacco Prevention Program officials will attend Hertford County High School home basketball games from now through February in order to get the message to young people that help is just a phone call away.

She cited recent statistics concerning teen tobacco use as one of the reasons why this campaign was necessary. According to those numbers, 64 percent of high school students in eastern North Carolina said they had tried cigarettes while 28 percent admitted they currently smoke. Forty-six percent revealed they live in homes where others smoke.

At the middle school level, 30 percent of those 6th through 8th graders had tried smoking. Nine percent said they currently continue with that habit and 48 percent say they reside in homes where someone else smokes.

“Those figures show exactly the problem we’re dealing with,” Sellers said. “Our young people need to understand the impact tobacco products have on their lives.”

Additionally, any person of any age who wants to kick the habit can receive the same information by calling 1-800QUITNOW.

“We encourage anyone who wants to quit smoking or who wants to stop using any form of tobacco products to call either number,” Sellers said.

NC statistics reveal (Youth Tobacco Survey). In 2003, eastern region survey revealed 28 percent of high school students said they smoke.

That shows you what we’re dealing with.

46 percent live in homes where others smoke.