By Jessica Hoover
In Hamilton County only about 12 percent of adults smoke, but that does not stop Holly Wheeler, program coordinator of Smoke-free Hamilton County, from wanting to make those numbers even lower. To help with the mission to prevent and decrease tobacco use, the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Commission has renewed grant funding for SFHC.
According to Wheeler, there are specific priorities that SFHC has to meet in order to keep receiving funding. They must aim to prevent smoking, decrease exposure to secondhand smoke, help people quit and build a partnership within the community. To help meet some of these priorities, SFHC plans on focusing on changing policies and systems, such as switching to smoke-free campuses, and working with health providers to encourage people to quit smoking. Youth programs also will be a large contributor in SFHC’s efforts to prevent smoking.
“Almost 25 percent of our (Hamilton County’s) population is under the age of 17,” Wheeler said. “Our biggest goal is working toward youth programs so that we can keep this from happening. The best way to control tobacco use is prevention. (We want) to really work with schools and with youth organizations to engage youth advocates through peer advocacy programs. So, other youth are communicating to their peers about nicotine and tobacco use.”
Wheeler said that because of Hamilton County’s low use of tobacco, she is worried that the citizens may be less likely to have conversations about the significance of prevention and quitting.
“My hope with this grant is that we are able to restart a conversation about tobacco control and the importance it has on the health of people here in Hamilton County,” Wheeler said. “If we lead the way in terms of youth prevention, education and working with providers toward cessation, hopefully other communities will follow suit. We can help impact not just the health of our communities, but also communities all over Indiana.”
For more on tobacco prevention, quitting, secondhand smoke and more, visit hamiltoncountyphhc.com/tobacco-prevention-cessation.