The Grayson County Health Department is looking to combat smoking among local youths thanks to a recent $25,000 grant from the state.
According to Grayson County Health Department (GCHD) Community Health Educator Jenny Cummings, the grant is part of the state’s new process for distributing tobacco settlement funding.
She said that, in the past, the health department received funding from a master settlement fund, which consisted of around $4.5 million divvied out throughout the state. This year, though, that funding was cut to $2 million, so the state decided to divvy it out through a competitive grant process, which awarded grants of various amounts to 19 health departments throughout the state.
The GCHD was one of eight Kentucky health departments to receive a $25,000 grant, and it will use the funding to focus on prevention messaging related to the use of tobacco and other products containing nicotine.
Cummings said the GCHD intends to partner with the Grayson County school system to offer tobacco education, and will target fifth graders and middle schoolers (the age at which youths are most at risk for picking up smoking) primarily, though there will be work done at Grayson County High School as well.
GCHD will also work to educate the community on the harm of second-hand smoke and third-hand smoke, as well as promote the hotlines set up to help smokers quit: Quit Now Kentucky, which is set up for smokers of all ages, and My Life, My Quit, which focuses on teens and young people.
“We know this is a problem,” Cummings said. “We have young people addicted to nicotine.”
According to Cummings, over 90% of adult smokers started before the age of 18, which is why it is so important to educate younger children about the dangers of smoking.
In addition to cigarettes, the GCHD’s program will seek to educate the community on the dangers of vaping and smoking e-cigarettes, as well.
According to Cummings, a 2018 study said that one in five high schoolers and one in 20 middle schoolers use e-cigarettes, and many are not aware that one JUULpod contains as much nicotine as 20 packs of cigarettes.
“I really want to work hard to change school culture so that using electronic cigarettes is not glamorized,” she said.
For information about and/or assistance with quitting smoking, call the Grayson County Health Department at 270-259-3141, extension 115; the Quit Now Kentucky hotline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW; or the My Life, My Quit hotline at 855-891-9989, or text START MY QUIT to that same number.
According to Cummings, the GCHD is always looking for grants to assist with its programs.
“We work to get grants that will keep people safe and informed, and will take care of them,” Cummings said.