SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska




November 17, 2005

Alaska has one of the highest rates of tobacco use in the country and Alaska Natives smoke at a higher rate than non-Natives in the state. The 29th annual Great American Smokeout - which takes place on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2005 - gives Alaskans a chance to learn what it takes to quit smoking, said Wilbur Brown Jr., a health educator and tobacco policy coordinator for the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.

"Quitting for the day can help you find out if you can quit smoking for good," Brown said. "Millions of Americans have participated in the Great American Smokeout over the past 20 years or so, and a significant number of them were able to quit tobacco for good because they could quit smoking for that one day."

According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, the smoking rate among Alaska Natives was 45 percent in 1999-2001, compared to 22 percent for non-Natives. Young Alaska Natives are three to four times more likely to start smoking than non-Natives. Even though the smoking rate for Alaska Native youth has dropped significantly (62 percent in 1995 to 44 percent in 2003), young Natives still are three times more likely to be smokers than non-Native youth (12 percent smokers in 2003). The use of smokeless tobacco also is higher among Alaska Natives than non-Natives. Smoking and other tobacco products have been linked to many health problems, including several types of cancer, stroke and other diseases.

"It does not have to be this way. We can make a change and choose not to use tobacco," Brown said. "Quitting smoking is one of the smartest things you can do for your health."

The Great American Smokeout began in 1977, when the citizens of Randolph, Mass., gave up smoking for the day so they could donate the money they saved to a high school scholarship fund. Later, a similar "Don't Smoke" day took place in Minnesota and that movement spread around the country. Local businesses didn't allow smoking for the day, and some restaurants offered "cold turkey" sandwiches. Non-smokers team up with smokers to help keep them smokefree for the day, and other support services are offered to help smokers get through the day without lighting up.

Smokers participating in the Great American Smokeout can contact the Alaska Tobacco Quit Line at
1-888-842-QUIT (1-888-842-7848) for support. SEARHC-eligible smokers wanting to participate in the Great American Smokeout from Southeast Alaska communities can contact Sherry in Sitka at 966-8721, Rowena in Juneau at 364-4451 or their local SEARHC clinic for help in quitting smoking.


Source of News:

Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium


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Ketchikan, Alaska