News and Events

Quit Doc’s Dr. Barry Hummel speaks to the Lake Placid Rotary Club about the Tobacco Free Partnership and Employer Cessation Benefits
May 16, 2013

Dr. Barry Hummel, Co-Founder and Communications Director of the Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation, addressed the Lake Placid Rotary Club on tobacco prevention issues at their weekly meeting on May 16, 2013.

Dr. Hummel shared information on the work of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Highlands County, and the goal of the coalition to reduce youth tobacco use locally.  “You may not think of it this way, but tobacco use is a Pediatric epidemic,” Dr. Hummel told the group.  “85% of new tobacco users start between the ages of 12 and 17, before it is even legal for them to purchase tobacco.”

Dr. Hummel explained that this leads to roughly 440,000 deaths each year as a result of tobacco use.  “These are adults that are dying, which is why we don’t think of it as a Pediatric problem,” added Dr. Hummel.  “The reality is that we need to do more to protect our children.”

Dr. Hummel went on to share the goals of the Tobacco Free Partnership, including work to reduce youth access to tobacco products, especially flavored products that specifically target children and teens.  He also discussed work to reduce secondhand smoke exposure, especially in multi-unit housing complexes and on public school campuses.

He elaborated on one key project for local business leaders such as the Rotarians in attendance: the issue of providing tobacco cessation services for employees.  “Employees that use tobacco cost businesses $3,400 in lost wages and sick time than non-smoking employees.  About half of that cost is due to additional medical expenses, and about half is due to lost productivity.”

Cost to Business

“The National Business Group on Health (NBGH) recommends that employers extend tobacco cessation coverage to all employees,” added Dr. Hummel.  “It just makes good business sense.”

The NGBH recommends that employers cover a variety of tobacco cessation treatment options, including medication and counseling.  NGBH also recommends that insurance companies eliminate fees that are obstacles to treatment for tobacco addition, such as co-pays.  Businesses are also encouraged to institute comprehensive workplace smoking bans, which ultimately encourage people to make a quit attempt.

“Tobacco cessation is more cost effective than other commonly covered disease prevention interventions, such as treatment of high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” said Dr. Hummel.

“Besides, what other personal choice do we accommodate in the workplace?” asked Dr. Hummel.  “Do we let people bring blenders to work to make margaritas?  Do we allow people to walk off the job for beer breaks?  Of course not!  The notion that you have to accommodate someone’s personal, recreational drug use in a work environment is absurd… especially since it costs business owners so much.”

Dr. Hummel ended by sharing the slow, steady reduction in tobacco use among Highlands County middle and high school students as a result of the work of the tobacco prevention program.

Highlands Youth Stats

“We are keeping up with the statewide drop in youth tobacco use,” said Dr. Hummel.  “I would like to see us accelerate the decline in Highlands County over the next 2-4 years, so that we actually fall below the state averages.  With your help,” he told the Rotarians, “I know we can do it.”