South Carolina Tobacco Summit

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) – According to the Department of Health and Environmental Control, 5,000 people die in South Carolina every year due to smoking related issues.  There is a statewide partnership taking aim at the ongoing battle over tobacco, the kind you smoke, and the kind you don’t.

“It’s a health burden and an economic burden,” says Mary-Kathryn Craft, with DHEC.  “We spend a billion dollars every year in health care-related expenses because of tobacco.”

DHEC hosted more than 140 advocates from across the state Friday.  The second annual South Carolina Tobacco Summit brought together community educators, health care providers, school districts and others to discuss the state’s progress in what they call the war on tobacco.

“We’ve made great progress.  We have 37 smoke-free communities in the state,” said Craft.
Along with smoke-free ordinances, advocates say the recently increased cigarette tax will urge more people to quit. They also believe focusing on youth is critical.

“Cutting down on youth smoking rates goes a long way towards taking the entire tobacco prevalence rate down,” says Victoria Almquist, with Tobacco-Free Kids Campaign.”

Something new this year is the addition to cessation programs in the state.  Along with counseling, products like the Nicotine patch and gum, are now available for free to people who do not have health insurance.”

“Research shows if you pair medication, like the gum and the patch, with some kind of support, there is a higher percentage of people quitting for good.”

The South Carolina Tobacco Quit Line is available, for free.  Trained counselors are on stand-by to offer support and answer questions.  The number is 1-800-QUIT-NOW.  The lines are open seven days a week. 

Irmo is the only area surrounding Columbia that has not passed a smoking ban.