The Kentucky Cancer Program will be offering virtual “Plan to be Tobacco Free” classes to the community free of charge.

The sessions were developed to assist thousands of Kentuckians who are interested in quitting tobacco by providing resources and guidance, according to the Kentucky Cancer Program.

Jaime Rafferty, a cancer control specialist with the Kentucky Cancer Program, said while the sessions are not a cessation program, they will help provide resources to assist individuals in planning and setting goals, as well as building a support system.

“Our goal is to navigate them to resources that will help them to become nonsmokers, and most importantly, as the title says, to plan, to give them the opportunity to make and develop a plan that’s individualized to them, that gives them guidance to help them be successful,” she said.

Rafferty said Kentucky goes back and forth with West Virginia on which state has the highest smoking rates nationwide. She said in Kentucky, approximately 8,000 individuals die annually from illnesses caused by smoking.

“We’re not a densely populated state — 8,000 is a lot of people,” she said. “If you look at one county being wiped off the map, that is frightening.”

Dying from smoking-related illnesses is an entirely preventable cause of death, Rafferty said

“If we can tackle that as a state and as a district, then the best way to do that is to give people the tools that they need to become successful nonsmokers when they’re ready,” she said.

Plan to be Tobacco Free sessions will take place the third Thursday of every month via Zoom.

Rafferty said sessions were formerly held in-person but have since been moved to Zoom and by phone due to COVID-19.

“As horrible as COVID is, it’s actually helped us to reach more people via Zoom,” she said. “With this platform, we have been able to reach people that may not have come to a meeting or an event, but they will sign onto a computer.”

Rafferty said anyone interested should register in advance to receive a resource packet that will provide guidance to quitting tobacco.

Anyone wishing to register can do so by emailing jaime.smith.3@louisville.edu or call 270-442-1310.

Christie Netherton, cnetherton@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7360

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