Area to get more than $2 million to combat smoking
More than $2 million is coming to Northeast Ohio for the most far-reaching anti-smoking efforts ever seen here.
The first grants awarded by Ohio's tobacco prevention foundation will bring programs into the schools, campaigns to neighborhood centers and cessation counseling to adults.
Among the plans, Lake and Geauga counties will target pregnant smokers and Amish adolescents. Summit County will work with physicians and neighborhood groups to establish a cessation network, while Cuyahoga County has targeted certain city neighborhoods and suburbs such as Lakewood and Warrensville Heights. The Cuyahoga group will also focus on black and Hispanic smokers.
"We're very excited to see the dollars go out the door," said Tracy Sabetta of Tobacco-Free Ohio. "This is the first time any state money has been spent on prevention."
The $7 million awarded by the Ohio Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation falls short of what was expected before state lawmakers grabbed 40 percent of the foundation's money to balance the budget last year.
But the local grants are a pot of gold compared with what health groups had to work with. The Summit County Tobacco Prevention Coalition, for instance, has limped along on a $56,000 budget. The group will get $475,000.
Mary Halbach, the group's project director, was overjoyed yesterday. "We've been waiting so long - you just don't know," she said.
The money is part of Ohio's $10.1 billion tobacco settlement. Ohioans have already seen some of the prevention money at work in the "Stand" campaign, which features teens in a series of countermarketing commercials.
Programs aimed at smokers and would-be smokers are crucial to bring down smoking rates, health experts say. Adults and teen smoking rates in Ohio are among the nation's highest. The Cleveland-Lorain-Elyria area has the fourth-highest smoking rate among 100 U.S. metro regions.
Lorain County was not among the 100 applicants for state foundation money. Lorain Health Commissioner Terrence Tomaszewski said he could not use his tobacco-control officer, who is paid with a separate $52,000 grant, for another grant project.
He recently learned that his annual grant, through the Ohio Department of Health, will end this May, a year earlier than expected.
"I didn't go after the initiative because I had the one, and now they're cutting that," he said. "I'm kind of stuck after May."