Three months into its launch, the city’s campaign to be smoke-free by June is at a standstill.
Last November, Mayor Toni Harp partnered with the University and several city departments to inaugurate the New Haven Smokeout, a city-wide effort to eliminate smoking. The American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout — a one-day event on the third Thursday of November that encourages smokers to quit — spurred the proposed campaign, which includes plans to implement anti-smoking education programs in public schools and to provide city residents with resources to quit. The Smokeout aimed to have the city be smoke-free by June, but City Hall spokesman Laurence Grotheer said this deadline would likely be missed.
“We’re working on it,” Grotheer said. “But there’s nothing to report yet.”
The city, however, has published on its website a document listing local clinics that conduct programs to help smokers quit. The document also provides links to websites with advice about quitting smoking.
Additionally, the document includes directions on how to use a statewide hotline — dubbed the “CT Quit line.” The hotline offers counseling services in English and Spanish and sets up callers with personal “Quit Coaches” who help them to develop personalized plans to quit smoking.
Grotheer said easing city residents’ efforts to quit smoking was a priority for both Harp and Health Department officials. Lower rates of smoking in the city will drive down healthcare costs, he added.
“We’re trying raise awareness among residents of the harmful health effects of smoking,” he said.
Martha Okafor, City Community Services administrator, said the city officials involved in the New Haven Smokeout have divided into four task forces. The first team is working to develop posters as part of a city-wide anti-smoking campaign. Another group is drafting legislation to designate public parks and school grounds as smoke-free zones. A third team has focused on developing youth prevention for schools. Finally, a fourth team is working to help city residents quit smoking.
Okafor added that the first event of the New Haven Smokeout would be the “Kick Butt Campaign” in March — an education program targeting city youth.
Charaign Sesock, media relations officer for the American Cancer Society, said that, while she has seen several college campuses use the Great American Smokeout to organize a day’s worth of awareness events, she has not yet seen a city use the day to launch a larger campaign.
As part of the New Haven Smokeout, Southern Connecticut State University pledged to become a smoke-free campus. Although Yale is a partner in the effort, the University has not announced any plans to follow suit.
Harp named Marta Moret SPH ’87, the wife of University President Peter Salovey, as the city’s partner in the Smokeout campaign. At November’s launch, Moret said the University would provide spaces for city officials to meet throughout the campaign and discuss its progress. Grotheer could not confirm whether or not these meetings have occurred.
In addition to assisting residents to quit smoking, city officials pledged to make smoke-free housing available through the New Haven Smokeout and to develop an anti-smoking curriculum for New Haven Public Schools. These programs have yet to be carried out.
In April 2004, Connecticut’s state legislature passed the Clean Indoor Air Act which prohibits smoking in workplaces with five or more employees as well as in bars, restaurants, hospitals and other public establishments.