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Tobacco settlement dollars being put to good use in county

YAKIMA - At a luncheon held yesterday in Yakima, the American Lung Association, Educational Service District 105 and several of their Tobacco Prevention partners highlighted various programs and their effectiveness in tobacco prevention and education.

Speakers at the luncheon included Dennis Klukan of the Yakima Health District, Ricardo Garcia, station manager at KDNA in Granger, Celisa Hopkins of the American Lung Association, Susan Martin and Anna Marie Dufault of ESD 105, Julie Smith and three of her students at West Valley Junior High School and Diane Sekaquaptewa of the Yakama Nation.

Each of the speakers spoke of the success rate of the new Tobacco Quit Line, established just last year. The Quit Line received more than 22,000 calls in 2005. Of these calls, 719 were from Yakima County residents. Of the callers, 62 percent were women. The purpose of the Quit Line is to provide callers with resources for quitting the use of tobacco and/or to help someone else cease using tobacco.

Dennis Klukan of the Yakima Health District noted the use of tobacco rose after World War II and epidemiologists noticed a rise in health problems. They set out to determine if there was a correlation between the two. After determining there was indeed a correlation, they told tobacco companies "You KNEW" there was a problem with smoking and tobacco. An accusation the tobacco companies refused to acknowledge.

In 1998, a Master Settlement Agreement was scheduled to provide $4.5 billion over 25 years for Washington state to help rectify the harmful use of tobacco. As some of the funds were allotted to the Yakima County Health Department, they have been given to agencies and programs which were already being effective in preventing the use of tobacco, such as the American Lung Association.

The American Lung Association has been developing programs such as Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU) within the communities of Yakima County. One such community is the Yakama Nation. Together, they have reached the youth of the tribe and been able to provide lessons and re-work the TATU manual to fit the tribal customs. The new manual also provides education on the use of tobacco outside of tribal ceremonies.

Ricardo Garcia, station manager at KDNA, spoke about a program the American Lung Association helped him with in educating the hispanic communities in Granger and Toppenish. The program, translated in English, is called "Give Up Smoking Already." The target audience is widely disadvantaged with low education levels and a lack of understanding as to the risks associated with tobacco use. This program, aired on KDNA, allows listener participation. Youths from the community are on air presenting information to the community. In turn, the listeners can call in to the radio station and hold a "conversation" with them. They have found a majority of the callers are fathers who smoke and they are limited in their knowledge of tobacco effects.

Susan Martin and Anna Marie Dufault of ESD 105 spoke of the new signage found at school districts around the state. These signs will be a "lasting result of the settlement dollars." They encouraged attendees of the luncheon to discourage smoking on any school campus and to let administrators know if there is a problem with someone smoking, "You may see someone step outside at a basketball game, thinking it is okay."

According to Martin and Default most children start smoking at age 12. So, recent non-smoking campaigns have been on television to discourage children ages 11 to 18 years from smoking. "We've had a lot of adults tell us the commercials are gross. They are! However, so is smoking," Dufault stated. She went on to say that the adults' biggest complaint has been that the commercials really should not be on at dinner time. But, research shows that the "Chuckie" and "No Stank You" campaigns are effective.

Celisa Hopkins of the American Lung Association told the audience data shows "we are making a difference!" She cited that tobacco use in the county has decreased from 26.1% to 15.9% in adults, which is lower than the state average. She highlighted the various ways in which the American Lung Association is working to continue reducing the use of Tobacco in Yakima County, including

- Coordinate with the Yakima Anti-Tobacco Alliance in sharing resources, evaluating gaps in education and detailing where the settlement monies are going.

- To prevent youth initiation, work with retailers in the county in preventing the sale of tobacco products to those under the age of 18.

- Increase the quit rate among adults via the Tobacco Quit Line and training of health care providers.

- Reduce second-hand smoke exposure through education and environmental change such as from I-901.

The funds provided from the Tobacco Settlement are expected to continue benefiting various programs throughout Yakima County through 2009.

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