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Federal and state public health leaders encourage stronger tobacco prevention and control policies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Contact:  LT. Kate Migliaccio
(202) 260-9123

U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh and Six Regional State Health Commissioners Discussed Policies to Prevent Kids from Starting and Help Adults Quit

Manchester, NH — Dr. Howard Koh, MD, MPH, Assistant Secretary for Health of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, today joined with the state health commissioners from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont in Manchester, NH, to call on New England health and policy leaders to work together to accelerate progress on tobacco control and prevention.  The remarks were made just prior to Dr. Koh’s hosting of a New England Tobacco Town Hall which drew approximately 225 participants from the region.

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in this country and in the region, killing 20,000 New Englanders each year.  While New England has been a leader in policies to prevent tobacco use, help smokers quit and reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, tobacco use continues to be all too prevalent among particular populations here and across the country, including low income adults (28.9% smoke nationally), the uninsured (31.9% smoke nationally) and military personnel (30.6% nationally) – all dramatically higher than the national smoking rate of 19.3% for adults. Annually, health care costs from tobacco amount to $1. 44 billion in Connecticut, $550 million in Maine, $3.01 billion in Massachusetts, $469 million in New Hampshire, $491 million in Rhode Island and $242 million in Vermont.

While addressing the audience of tobacco control experts, health organizations, lawmakers, business leaders, and healthcare providers, Dr. Koh discussed both the urgency of ending the tobacco epidemic and the Obama Administration’s commitment helping tobacco users quit and preventing kids from starting.

“We have within our grasp the capacity to eliminate the harms from tobacco dependence in our society. We know how to end the tobacco epidemic and under President Obama’s leadership we are committed to advancing progress towards our shared goal of a society free of tobacco-related death and disease,” said Koh. 

Dr. Jose Montero, New Hampshire’s Health Director thanked Dr. Koh and the attendees on behalf of his peers from the neighboring New England states.  As the senior public health official from the “host state” for this important convening, Dr. Montero said, “It was an honor to host the New England states for such an important event. The rates of tobacco use have been declining, but it is still a leading cause of death and disease in New England and we can and must do more to encourage people to quit and not start in the first place.”

In addition to those who attended the Town Hall in person, the event was webcast live to tobacco control and health experts throughout the country.  To view the webcast, visit: http://www.edifymultimedia.com/webcast/player.htm

Attendees committed to working together to actualize a vision for dramatically reducing tobacco use in New England in order to save lives and decrease healthcare costs.