Tobacco prevention organization gives Portage County funds

Jessica Sprowl

Free smoking cessation programs are being held throughout Portage County through the Portage County Tobacco Prevention Coalition.

Portage County received $293,428 this year from the Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation. These funds are broken down and allocated to the agencies taking part in prevention and control use of tobacco in the county.

“It takes a whole community to come together as a coalition and prevent the use of tobacco,” said Gina Ross, project director of tobacco prevention and control programs of Portage County.

Family and Community Services, located in Kent, is the new lead agency for the fiscal oversight of the fund, Ross said, who is in charge of all the budgeting and paper work for the coalition.

Through the fund, Coleman Wellness Solutions center is able to work with eight companies a year, free to the companies, through on-site cessation programs to help employees quit smoking, said Susan Wilcox, director of Coleman Wellness Solutions.

As of right now, the center has already worked with four companies since January, and can only take-on four more companies for the rest of the year.

“We’re on a first-come, first-serve basis,” Wilcox said, “Our expertise is working with companies on health and wellness issues. Our particular expertise is in mental health and addictions.”

The center does have certified tobacco specialists who go out and do the cessation programs, Wilcox said. The center will also work with the human resources department within the companies to rework and revise the firms’ current smoking and health policy.

Robinson Memorial Hospital’s 13-Step Quit Smoking Program will celebrate its eighth year on April 1.

Jan Bahle, a clinical nurse specialist in cardiovascular and critical care, has been head of the program since the beginning.

Bahle, who is a certified tobacco specialist, said it can take six to 10 times to quit smoking.

“My role is to give people hope they can do this,” she said, “To give them goals.”

One of Bahle’s greatest achievements with the smoking cessation program was helping an individual quit smoking after 60 years, she said.

“The only failure on quitting smoking is the person who quits trying to quit,” Bahle said.

Robinson Memorial’s program is free to all Portage County individuals who wish to quit smoking.

Classes are flexible and set up as need arises, Bahle said, and classes are anywhere from one to 10 people per class.

The prevention coalition began in the fall of 2001, but without funding, Ross said.

The funds are from the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement, in which tobacco companies must pay Ohio, and other states, a certain amount of money each year, for 20 years, she said.

This year is the fifth year the coalition has received funds from the Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation in Columbus.

The prevention coalition meets monthly, and the meetings are for anyone who wants to be a part of the coalition, Ross said.

“Everyone is welcome,” Ross said, “We are always looking for people to help out.”

The next meeting will be held at 11 a.m. March 13 in Robinson Memorial Hospital, she said.

Contact reporting public affairs reporter Jessica Sprowl [email protected].