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It's time to kick butts

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Thursday is the Great American Smokeout, when smokers are encouraged to kick the habit.

WORTHINGTON -- Quitting smoking isn't easy, but it can be done, and there is help available.

That's the message public health officials and local youth hope to promote during the annual Great American Smokeout Thursday, through tobacco awareness initiatives, highlighting free programs to help people quit smoking and even assisting local businesses in blacking out tobacco ads.

"The American Cancer Society has decided to encourage smokers to use (the Great American Smokeout) day to quit, or plan in advance to quit that day," said Paula Anderson, Nobles-Rock Community Health Educator and Tobacco Control Coordinator.

Five area schools -- Adrian, Ellsworth, Luverne, Hills-Beaver Creek and the District 518 Area Learning Center -- are creating graffiti boards, where people can sign their names if they "want to prevent 75,000 kids from smoking and save $1,000,000,000 in health care costs." The boards will be sent to legislators, reminding them that just because the Freedom to Breathe act was passed doesn't mean the smoking-prevention efforts are over.

"We still need to be aware of the tobacco's continuing tactics to addict a whole new generation of users," Anderson said.

The Nobles Rock Community Health Improvement Program will also be involved with an upcoming statewide program called "Raise It for Health," which will attempt to convince people to raise the price of tobacco, considered one of the most effective ways to help people quit smoking.

Local students will show support for raising the price of tobacco by taking pictures of themselves with signs explaining why they believe cheap tobacco is a bad idea.

For example, the signs may read "because we all pay the price" or "because my insurance is high enough."

The Community Health Improvement Program is also focusing on helping current smokers kick the habit, by promoting Quitplan Services, Minnesota's free statewide smoking cessation program. Quitplan offers free patches, lozenges or gum to anyone in the state who plans to quit smoking, even the underinsured or uninsured. More information on Quitplan can be found online at quitplan.com.

Sanford Medical Center Worthington has already implemented a clinic fax referral program, and both the Sanford- and the Avera-affiliated Worthington clinics will implement the program in the future, Anderson said.

Essentially, the program attempts to identify smokers and link them with available quitting resources such as Quitplan. The program allows healthcare providers to follow up on a smoker's quitting efforts. Studies show the more people hear from healthcare providers about quitting, the more likely they are to successfully quit.

Nobles-Rock Community Health Improvement Program will show a Minnesota-made documentary, "Tobacco Addiction: The Unfiltered Truth," at 5:45 p.m. Dec. 2 at BenLee's in Worthington, and again at 6 p.m. Dec. 13 at Historic Palace Theatre, Luverne. Anyone interested in attending should RSVP to (507) 283-5066, ext. 3017, or to info@noblesrockchip.org.

Start Noticing

Many local retailers in Cottonwood, Jackson and Redwood counties are also participating in the Great American Smokeout this year, by blacking out their tobacco ads Thursday.

"We're not smoker-haters," said Susan Vileta, program coordinator for Start Noticing, a youth prevention group. "That's what the young people are saying. They understand... addiction."

Start Noticing focuses its efforts on preventing youth from smoking before they start. There are several Start Noticing groups across Minnesota, and the Cottonwood-Jackson-Redwood group alone has approximately 70 students.

Retailers participating in blacking out tobacco ads for the Great American Smokeout include:

* In Cottonwood County, Country Pride/Cenex, Mountain Lake; Maynard's, Westbrook; Center Stop, County Pride/Cenex and Hy-Vee, Windom.

* In Jackson County, PJ's, Heron Lake; Expressway BP, Super America (I-90) and Jackson Liquor, Jackson; and Hage Oil, Lakefield.

* In Redwood County, Meadowland Co-op, Lamberton; Wayne's, Morgan; P&K's, Redwood Falls; and Meadowland Co-Op and Salfer's Food Center, Wabasso.

"There will be a note on the counter explaining the day," Vileta said. "It's just an opportunity to raise more awareness."

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