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November 13, 2012
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Upstate celebrates Great American Smoke Out Nov. 15

SYRACUSE, N.Y.— Upstate Medical University will celebrate the Great American Smoke Out Nov. 15 with the offer of a free cold turkey sandwich for any member of the Upstate community who signs the Great American Smoke Out Pledge.  Of course, one has to be a smoker to take advantage of this healthy offer, but non-smokers who agree to co-sign the pledge as a ‘quit buddy’ can also take advantage of the free fare.

The pledge states that the signer will quit any and all tobacco products for 24 hours on Thursday, Nov. 15, which has been designated as the Great American Smoke Out.

In addition to the cold turkey sandwich, Upstate will provide smokers with a variety of products that will help curb the habit for the day, including nicotine patches and lozenges. The offer is good at Upstate’s Downtown and Community campuses.

The cold turkey sandwich comes courtesy from Morrison, Upstate’s food vendor.

Educational materials on smoking cessation will be available outside the cafeteria on the Community Campus and brief on the spot smoking cessation consults will be offered as well.

“The Great American Smoke Out provides us the perfect opportunity to encourage our colleagues who smoke to kick the habit at least for the day and hopefully the long run,” said Bruce Simmons, M.D., director of Employee Student Health.

Upstate was the first SUNY campus to go smoke free when it banned smoking in 2005. As part of preparing employees for the ban, Upstate offered an aggressive quit smoking program for its employees and their families by providing free access to smoking cessation resources.

Simmons said the ban may have helped to create a healthier workforce. A 2010 survey of more than 2,500 employees found that 11 percent identified themselves as smokers.  That compares to a survey conducted in 2002, three years before the smoke-free campus went into effect, which identified 17 percent of the workforce as smokers.  The American Cancer Society estimates that about 18 percent of all New Yorkers are smokers.

“That’s a 35 percent decrease in the number of employees who say they smoke,” Simmons noted.  “Whether it’s the university’s efforts or the general increase in awareness of the health hazards of smoking, it’s an encouraging sign.

Simmons said Upstate continues to provide employees with smoking cessation counseling and free quit-smoking drugs, such as nicotine patches.

Earlier this year, Upstate extended its smoke free initiative to the Community Campus, banning all tobacco products from both campuses.

Upstate has been at the forefront of providing the public with smoking cessation programs and education.  Funded by the Advocates for Upstate Medical University, Upstate offers about a dozen free six-week smoking cessation programs throughout Central New York.

Upstate smoking cessation experts also have brought their programming to various businesses and worksites.

“We probably reach upwards of about 200 people annually with our programs and many have kicked the habit successfully because of our programming,” said Cindy Cary, director of Upstate’s HeathLink program and a smoking cessation educator. She noted that in a recent program, six out of the seven participants had quit smoking.

Upstate provides seven smoking cessation classes over a six-week period that address planning and preparation to quit, finding support for one’s efforts and dealing with a possible relapse.

Upstate’s work at building a healthier community goes beyond personal intervention with smoking cessation classes.  Upstate’s work was instrumental in the county’s development and passage of a law that bans smoking with 100 feet of hospital property.  The law has been in effect since November 2009.  Upstate, the American Cancer Society and others are now setting their sites on prohibiting smoking within 50 feet of freestanding healthcare clinics and medical offices.

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