PUBLISHED: 5:19 PM on Wednesday, September 10, 2008
SEARHC programs promote tobacco education campaign
SITKA - The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Tobacco Prevention, Women's Health and Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska programs this month launched the second phase of a regional tobacco education media campaign.

The three SEARHC programs mailed the first of a series of four postcards to women throughout the region that promotes the Alaska Tobacco Quit Line and its services. Even if women receiving the cards are nonsmokers, it's likely they will know smokers and can pass along the information. The Alaska Tobacco Quit Line (1-888-842-7848) is staffed from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day.

It offers free support from trained tobacco cessation staff and free nicotine replacement therapy products (up to eight weeks of patches per year). Having support, such as that provided by the Alaska Tobacco Quit Line, is a proven method for helping people be more successful when they try to quit using tobacco.

"Alaska Natives have some of the highest rates of tobacco use in the country, and also have increasing rates for several types of cancer," said Dr. Marty Grasmeder, medical director at SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital. "Quitting tobacco is the top prevention measure people can take to protect their health. The Alaska Tobacco Quit Line is a service that can be used by any Alaskan who needs support when they decide to quit using tobacco."

According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, tobacco use directly can be blamed for causing one-third of all cancer deaths in this country. Tobacco use accounts for 90 percent of all lung cancer cases, the top killer of men and women in the United States. Tobacco use also has been linked to cancers of the cervix, breast, prostate, pancreas, mouth, kidney, bladder and many other organs. In addition to cancer, tobacco use is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, emphysema and many other diseases.

The three SEARHC programs have been working together on a tobacco prevention media campaign since August 2006 to educate women ages 18 to 44 about the dangers and impacts of tobacco use.

Over the past three years, the number of tobacco users in Southeast Alaska has dropped 8 percent (from 36 percent to 28 percent). But Southeast Alaska still has higher rates of tobacco use than the state and nation.

For more information about the tobacco education project, contact SEARHC Tobacco Prevention Program Director Andrea Thomas at 966-8883 or SEARHC Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska Program Community Project Assistant Renae Mathson at 966-8797.