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St. Lawrence County offers help prior to smoking ban

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CANTON — Before its tobacco ban begins in May, St. Lawrence County officials are putting steps in place to help employees who smoke or want to quit get through the day.

The county Board of Legislators voted Nov. 5 to ban smoking and the use of tobacco products on county property effective May 4.

Until then, information is being gathered so that employees and others are aware of options.

“We’re hopeful we’re giving people time to figure out how they’re going to deal with the new law,” said Benjamin R. Todd, tobacco program coordinator. “Hopefully, people will recognize the law is in place for good reason.”

The county will conduct a survey to determine how many of its employees smoke. Statewide, 18 percent of the population smokes. In St. Lawrence County, its 25 percent, Mr. Todd said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, surveys show that two out of three tobacco users want to quit, he said.

Banning smoking on workplace property can help people break the habit as evidenced by a poll at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, Ogdensburg. Five years after adopting a tobacco-free campus, tobacco use by employees dropped by nearly 50 percent, Mr. Todd said.

Clinton and Madison counties recently adopted similar bans on their property, he said.

The county is reviewing the stop-smoking programs offered through its health plan, which covers a six-month supply of prescription Chantix. The county also is working with Kinney Drugs on a discount card for reduced rates on other products that can help smokers, such as nicotine patches, gum and lozenges, Mr. Todd said.

The county is putting together a Web page of frequently asked questions that will be available for employees and the public.

It also is steering people to the NYS Quitline, 866-697-8487.

“First and foremost, it’s a counseling service,” Mr. Todd said.

The Quitline also may offer up to two weeks of free nicotine patches or gum, based on a smoker’s answers to questions.

Other stop-smoking programs sometimes are available.

Claxton-Hepburn and the Tobacco Cessation Center of Northern New York are offering a free seven-week program that meets from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the medical center’s auditorium. February class dates are Feb. 7 and 21. To register, call 261-5436 or 713-5251. Free nicotine patches and/or gum will be available to eligible participants.

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