PLATTSBURGH - The tri-county area can breathe a little easier with the hard work provided by recently-honored Community Champions.
A Community Champion is "any individual or organization working collaboratively with the New York State Tobacco Control Program Partners to create sustainable conditions for New Yorkers to achieve their fullest health potential," according to a brochure provided by the Adirondack Tobacco Free Network.
During a luncheon March 5, numerous organizations, businesses and individuals were recognized for have worked to protect the residents of Clinton, Franklin and Essex counties in the places they "play, learn, work and live."
Some of these groups include the Champlain Valley Business and Professional Women, Georgia Pacific, Cumberland 12 Cinemas, and Clinton Community College Student Senate.
"If it were not for the collective and sustained efforts of everyone in this room, we would not have made the progress New York has made in reducing tobacco use," said Dr. Jeffrey G. Willett, director of the Tobacco Control Program. "Adult and youth smoking rates are at their lowest level on record in New York State."
Willett added New York has "outpaced" the national declines during the past decade.
However, he also stressed although communities across the state are working hard, the tobacco companies are working just as hard, if not harder, to addict "a new generation of replacement smokers."
"According to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2006, the tobacco industry spent a remarkable $12.5 billion on marketing," Willett explained. "In New York State alone, they spent $1.1 million every day on retail advertising, promotions and price discounts."
Currently, New York is considering a $1 increase to the state's cigarette excise tax, which, according to Willett, will keep 106,000 children from becoming smokers and motivate 50,000 adults to quit, as well as generate $200 million a year in new revenue to help support health programs.