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Oswego County has highest smoking rate in NYS

Sudipto Sarkar

The Great American Smokeout this week urges smokers to give up smoking for at least one day, in the hopes it leads to quitting for good. Nowhere is that message more important than in some of the more rural communities in upstate New York.

According to statistics from this May by the New York State Department of Health, 29 percent of adults smoke in Oswego County. That compares to a 14 percent statewide rate and is the highest smoking rate in the state. Rounding out the top five counties are Franklin, Orleans, Jefferson and Montgomery.

Chris Owens, Director of the CNY Regional Center for Tobacco Health Systems at St. Joseph’s Health, said generally low income and lack of education can accurately predict a community’s smoking rate.

"It seems to me the smoking rate in Oswego County is pretty closely tied to those two social determinants of health," Owens said.

There are some programs targeting those Oswego County smokers, including one aimed specifically toward pregnant woman.

"There’s a great program there called Smoke Free for My Baby and Me, which provides additional counseling and incentives for women who are looking to quit. If a woman is pregnant and quits smoking there is an incentive to provide diapers," he said.

Smokers in these more rural communities may have transportation issues and less access to health care, according to Owens. He points out there is help from the the NY QUITS hotline that can offer counseling online or over the phone. Smokers can also get free delivery of nicotine replacement products to their door.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.