Antismoking program went up in smoke

Friday's news article "Stop-smoking cash strays from intent" was discouraging, but not surprising.

In the late 1990s/early 2000, I worked in southwest Florida as a program coordinator for the American Lung Association of Gulfcoast Florida. The Big Tobacco settlement, hard-fought for by Florida governor Lawton Chiles, had been awarded and our program Not on Tobacco (N-O-T) was launching. I worked alongside a handful of dedicated coordinators in other regional ALA offices around the state to put this teen smoking cessation program in place in most Florida high schools.

The program itselfÂcame through a partnership with the University of West Virginia. We worked the first year like a study, submitting data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The program was awarded the designation of "Program that Works" by the CDC and carried on from there without extra study paperwork.

It's exciting to report that the program did work. No nicotine patches were used. Small groups were walked through weeks of meetings with a trained faculty facilitator on campus. Behavioral modification and continual encouragement helped so many teens kick the habit. The trickle-down of these sessions was also often improvements in otherÂareas of the teens' lives. Better grades. Better relationships.

Florida's N-O-T program was held up as the gold standard for others around the country to model with their own teens. And, I believe, rightly so.

Alas, the grant money disappeared. It was diverted to building roads and so forth. How does that happen? I wondered this often. I heard explanations like, "Patients with lung issues need to be able to get to their doctors on good roads."

We had a strong solution for the nation's young people in our hands. But, it was all blown away like a puff of smoke.

Julie Butler

Martinez

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