Pictured, from left, are Upshur County Commissioner Sam Nolte, Amanda Hayes with the Upshur County Tobacco Prevention Coalition, UCTPC vice chair Lori Ulderich Harvey, Commission President Kristie Tenney and Commissioner Doug Bush. / Photo by Katie Kuba

Quit tobacco cold turkey and score a Walmart gift card that you could use to buy a holiday turkey — or something else cool!

BUCKHANNON – Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day amounts to $2,400 a year, a representative of the Upshur County Tobacco Prevention Coalition told the Upshur County Commission last week.

At the commission’s Oct. 26 meeting, Amanda Hayes, a longtime member of the UCTPC, asked commissioners to endorse a proclamation supporting the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, held annually on the third Thursday of November.

Hayes said the Great American Smokeout challenges smokers to give up cigarettes for 24 hours “as an effort toward reducing or quitting entirely.”

She laid out a few startling local statistics about tobacco use and electronic cigarettes, or vapes in the Mountain State. For instance, in West Virginia, a pack of cigarettes costs approximately $6.62 plus tax.

“If you multiply that at one pack a day, the monthly cost is over $200; in turn, two packs a day can cost over $400,” she said. “To take that to a yearly cost, it is roughly $2,400. If you quit, not only would your health and the health of those around you improve, but the money could be allocated to internet services, a new tablet, a vacation, or just coping with the rising inflation.”

Hayes also discussed e-cigarettes and the use of vaping devices in the Mountain State, saying it had become an epidemic among youth and adults alike.

“Vaping use rates are rising faster in West Virginia than across the nation,” Hayes said, reading facts she had compiled in the proclamation. “More high school teenagers in West Virginia admit to having used vaping products within the last 30 days than anywhere else in the country.”

“At 35.7 percent – more than 1 in 3 – that is more than double the national percentage of high school students who use e-cigarettes, which is 14.1 percent, representing 2.14 million teens,” Hayes added. “Vaping is also becoming more prevalent in middle school students, which is alarming.”

Another reason to consider curbing tobacco use? Second-hand and third-hand also carry adverse health risks.

“The U.S. EPA says second-hand smoke is among the most dangerous substances known to cause cancer,” Hayes said. “Third-hand smoke refers to the toxins from cigarette smoke that stick to soft surfaces. Third-hand smoke affects not only adults but also babies, children and even pets.”

Want to get involved locally? The UCTPC will again erect a cardboard cutout of a turkey – this time in front of the Stockert Youth & Community Center. Kids, families and friends are encouraged to take a photo with the turkey and post it on Upshur County Tobacco Prevention Coalition’s Facebook page.

“It will go up sometime around the first of November after Halloween, and we invite people to stop and take a picture with the turkey,” Hayes said. “There’s a couple of different holes to stick your head through, and it’s just kind of a fun way for kids and families to get involved.”

But there’s also a second way to enter the Quit Cold Turkey gift card contest. Flyers with a QR code will be posted around town, and people can scan the code to enter the contest.

“You can also enter that way, and those will go up around the first of November too,” Hayes said.

The coalition will select the winner at random from people who have entered the contest, and the winner will enter a gift card to Buckhannon Walmart.

“We used to do turkeys, but it just got easier to do a gift card and the person who wins and can choose to use it however they wish, but we like the theme, ‘Quit Cold Turkey’ so we’re sticking with that.”

The commission voted to endorse a proclamation that recognizes and supports the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout Nov. 16, 2023, which “encourages all citizens who smoke, use chew or dip tobacco, vape or any other devices to ingest nicotine to demonstrate to themselves and to their children that they can quit by joining the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout.”

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