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News Release

 
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   November 14, 2001

George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
For DHSS:
Laura Otterbourg/609-984-7160
For Fleishman-Hillard
Lisa Holmes/212-453-2489



New Jersey School Children Take The Stage To Talk About Dangers Of Smoking On Great American Smokeout Day

TRENTON -Acting Commissioner Dr. George T. DiFerdinando, Jr. announced that fourth, fifth and sixth-graders statewide are writing letters today to an important person in their life asking them to quit smoking. The letter-writing campaign is part of the second annual "Tell Someone You Love" program, sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), and Scholastic, Inc. to mark the Great American Smokeout on November 15.

"We initiated this program last year to educate and inform two important groups: our children, and smokers who may be looking for ways to quit," said Dr. DiFerdinando. "Children need to know the important role they can play in another person's life. Children who take part in 'Tell Someone You Love' learn that smoking is not only a risk to the smoker, but to those around them. They also learn that their actions can have powerful results."

The program is the first of its kind in the U.S. in which students learn about smoking and the power of addiction. The students are given flexibility to write to whomever they wish - a family member, friend, entertainer, or a sports personality who smokes.

Scholastic Inc. sent program materials to school administrators, nurses and 11,000 teachers in 1,845 schools. The kits include a detailed program guide designed to facilitate an interesting and fun classroom session. Students are then asked to write a letter expressing in their own words why someone they love should quit smoking. For example, the letter may emphasize the risk of contracting cancer or heart disease, the dangers associated with smoke in the home, or the importance of setting a good example to others.

Maria Victoria Portales of Highland Park, New Jersey received a letter from her 11-year-old daughter last year. "I've always known that I needed to quit smoking, but the reality was I just couldn't or wouldn't do it. That changed when I realized what quitting meant not just for me, but to my children," says Ms. Portales, the mother of four. Maria has now been smoke-free since July.

The "Tell Someone You Love" program emphasizes the dangers of tobacco addiction, including the serious health risks posed by environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) to infants and children. ETS has been linked to an increased risk of low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, ear infections, severe lower respiratory infections, and fire-related injuries. According to the American Lung Association, ETS causes approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths in the U.S. each year in people who don't even smoke.

The Tell Someone You Love program is one of many youth-based initiatives sponsored by DHSS and supported with funds from the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) between 46 states and the tobacco industry. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently ranked New Jersey as 11th among the states in committing a substantial portion of MSA funds for tobacco control programs. New Jersey's Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program is designed to reduce the sickness, disability and death among New Jerseyans associated with the use of tobacco and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. All Tell Someone You Love letter recipients will receive information about New Jersey's free and low cost quit-smoking resources, including New Jersey QuitnetSM, New Jersey Quitline and New Jersey Quitcenters.

New Jersey's QuitnetSM, Quitline and Quitcenters

New Jersey Quitnet, www.nj.quitnet.com, is a FREE innovative online resource that provides comprehensive, individually tailored smoking cessation options, peer support, and access to the advice of trained counselors. Registered New Jersey Quitnet users can access an array of quitting guides to help plan a quitting strategy, referrals to local programs, and information about treatments 24 hours a day - seven days a week.

New Jersey Quitline, 1-866 NJ-STOPS (1-866-657-8677), offers toll free telephone counseling in 26 languages Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Trained counselors work with callers at every stage in the quitting process, developing treatment plans that meet the needs of the individual.

New Jersey Quitcenters, the latest addition to New Jersey's customized smoking cessation services, are counseling clinics with services available on a sliding fee scale according to income. They are currently located at 15 sites throughout the state. People can call NJ Quitline or log onto NJ Quitnet to find a location near them.

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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