Tobacco-related disparities persist

Despite Wisconsin’s smoke-free law, more than half of the state’s multi-unit housing residents report living in a building where smoking is still allowed. Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. In Wisconsin, an estimated 7,215 people die annually from illnesses directly related to smoking. Secondhand smoke is estimated to cause about 840 deaths each year in Wisconsin. In Sheboygan County, approximately 145 die annually of illnesses related to smoking.

While overall smoking rates are declining, tobacco- related disparities persist in Wisconsin.

“There is more work to do to eliminate tobaccorelated disparities. Disparities are the single most important issue in tobacco prevention efforts,” said Liz Abler, of Healthy Sheboygan County and re:TH!NK, the Lakeshore Tobacco Prevention Network.

“The problem is far from gone. Smoking rates are far higher for specific populations, including individuals with less education and income. Nearly a third of Wisconsin adults diagnosed with depression currently smoke.

“As a public health nurse, my job is to educate our community about public health concerns. Our coalition supports clean, safe air for everyone. When our state passed the smoke-free air law in 2010, banning smoking in bars and restaurants, the goal was safe, clean air for everyone. That is the standard that ensures safety for everyone in all work and public places, by decreasing the exposure to second- hand smoke.”

“Here in Sheboygan County, tobacco prevention coalition members meet regularly to make it more difficult for youth to start smoking and easier for people to quit,” said Cath Pape, Tobacco Control coordinator. “We are taking steps to address tobacco- related disparities by organizing community partners to identify cessation needs of those residing in federal housing and developing a plan to address the anticipated increase in need for cessation services. The coalition is distributing Quit Line materials throughout the county and offering short presentations on cessation resources.” Although we have been successful in driving down tobacco usage rates in Wisconsin, it’s important that Wisconsin keeps taking steps forward — not backward — to reduce the burden of tobacco and nicotine products in our state. Fifty-five percent of residents living in multiunit housing report smoking is allowed, and 68 percent of adults living in multi-unit housing want a no-smoking policy. The federal government has proposed a rule that would prohibit smoking in public housing nationwide. We are planning to pull together partners and offer tenants programs to assist with tobacco and nicotine cessation.

For more on re:TH!NK’s efforts to address tobacco use in Wisconsin, visit www.rethink If you use tobacco and want to quit, call the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800QUIT NOW for free help and medications. The 2014 BRFSS report may be found at www.dhs publication/p43073.pdf.

For local questions call 920-459-3038.

Liz Abler, RN, is a public health nurse and is a member of the Healthy Sheboygan County 2020 Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee.