Anniversary of smoke-free air is here

Wisconsin and Sheboygan County are celebrating the five-year anniversary of smokefree air.

Since the law took effect in 2010, there’s been less smoking, better indoor air quality and bartender health, and more smoke-free homes. In just five years, the law has reshaped social norms around smoking and improved the health of Wisconsinites statewide.

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of death in Wisconsin and Sheboygan County. That’s the bad news. The good news is that state and Sheboygan County tobacco use continues to fall. The Wisconsin tobacco use rate by adults was 27 percent in 1984, 24 percent in 2000 and 21 percent in 2008. Today, the state’s adult tobacco use rate is 17.9 percent.

A combination of factors contributed to this dramatic decline, including the following:

Sheboygan County health care providers treating their patients for tobacco addiction;

Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line (1-800-784-8669); ­ Increases in the state excise tax on tobacco products — currently $2.52 on each pack of cigarettes;

Better-educated public that is motivated to quit by media messages; and ­ Insurance plans that support the use of FDAapproved tobacco addiction treatment remedies.

The statewide workplace smoking ban has contributed to de-normalizing smoking in the eyes of young people, protecting all workers from the effects of secondhand smoke and allowing families to dine, drink and recreate in smoke-free entertainment facilities.

Health advocates say the combination of the smoke-free law, higher tobacco prices and the state’s comprehensive tobacco prevention and control program have driven youth and adult smoking rates to all-time lows.

However, much more work is still to be done to reduce tobacco’s burden on the state. Even though our smoking rates are down, we’re seeing more people using other types of tobacco products, like smokeless tobacco, little cigars and e-cigarettes. This is especially a problem with our young people.

National data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control show more youth turning to e-cigarettes — with high school use of the products tripling in just the last year. We have to continue our efforts to help adults quit tobacco products and prevent youth from ever starting the deadly addiction.

Healthy Sheboygan County 2020 Mental Health and ATODA committee continue to spread the message of tobacco prevention, by creating awareness about the benefits of quitting and educating the public to reduce problems associated with tobacco use. For more information, visit http://www. healthysheboygancounty. org.

If you use tobacco products, please consider calling the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free help and medications like patches, gum and lozenges, along with telephone coaching on how to quit from experts. This is a free service for all Wisconsin residents.

Your insurance might also be willing to help. More than 70 percent of Wisconsin residents with health insurance are covered for some form of help to quit smoking. Call, or check your insurance policy to see if you’re covered.

Because of the smoking ban, breathing — and living — is easier in Wisconsin.

Liz Abler is a public health nurse and member of HSC 2020 Mental Health and Substance Abuse Prevention Committee. Roger Dier is a senior outreach specialist for the UW Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention and has been educating clinicians in his role the past 14 years.