HANCOCK COUNTY — As an experiment, members of Greenfield-Central High School’s anti-tobacco group recently set about their neighborhoods in search of cigarette butts — at final count, they collected 104.
Then, they scoured the campus of the high school on Broadway Street. They found nearly 200 pieces, despite the ban on smoking on school campuses.
That tells anti-smoking leaders children still need to hear their message about the dangers of tobacco use. This week, several local groups joined forces to promote smoking cessation in recognition of the Great American Smokeout, a national movement aimed at helping people quit using tobacco.
The Hancock County Tobacco-Free Coalition, Hancock Wellness Centers and three local student-led anti-tobacco groups spent this week reaching out to younger students and promoting free classes to help county citizens quit smoking.
How the event is acknowledged has changed during the 14 years the county’s coalition has celebrated it, said Brandee Bastin, Hancock Regional Hospital tobacco initiatives coordinator. When the coalition first got started, the smokeout was originally promoted within workplaces, physician’s offices and the hospital, but now efforts have spread to county schools and neighborhoods as well, she said.
In addition, student-led anti-smoking groups now go out and talk about the dangers of smoking to sixth-graders in their districts in hopes of reaching children before they are tempted to try smoking. Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon and New Palestine high schools all have active groups who spoke out about tobacco this week, Bastin said.
Local anti-smoking advocate Jeff Slinker spoke to several health classes throughout the county. Slinker, also a sponsor for Greenfield-Central’s anti-tobacco club, talked to a group of about 20 freshmen Wednesday about how he smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for 25 years — and what it cost him both physically and emotionally.
Slinker, who was diagnosed with fast-spreading squamous carcinoma six years ago, had four lymph nodes, all of his teeth, part of the left side of his jaw and the roof of his mouth surgically removed to treat the cancer. He also underwent radiation and chemotherapy to stop the cancer from growing.
“Were you scared?” freshman Hannah Land asked Slinker about his battle with cancer.
The whole time, he told her.
The students were spellbound by Slinker’s telling of his experiences, said health teacher Marvin Shepler. They watched unflinchingly as Slinker removed the prostheses that allow him to speak and demonstrated what it sounds like if he tries to talk without them in.
Bastin hopes by hearing about Slinker’s experiences, county youth will decide never to pick up cigarettes or other tobacco products.
The Great American Smokeout effort in Hancock County seeks to reach adults as well, she said.
“Over time, more resources have become available,” Bastin said, pointing to the 10th anniversary of the free Indiana Tobacco Quitline, a toll-free number that offers smoking cessation counseling.
The city of Greenfield has pledged to cover the cost of medications and group smoking cessation programs for its employees as part its internal wellness program, she added.
Stopping smoking isn’t something most people can accomplish alone, and that’s why the county has offers free resources to those who are ready to kick the habit, officials said. In the coming months, Hancock Regional Hospital and Hancock Wellness Center (at its Greenfield and McCordsville locations) will host free four-week smoking cessation classes.
Indiana Tobacco Quitline
Since it began in March 2006, the Quitline has helped more than 114,000 tobacco users quit through its free phone counseling and its Web-based service, called Web Coach, and supplementary texting service, Text2Quit.
Hancock Wellness Center and Hancock Regional Hospital are offering free four-week tobacco cessation workshops in three locations to celebrate the Great American Smokeout, an effort to eradicate smoking.
Hancock Regional Hospital, 801 N. State St.
6-7 p.m. Mondays Dec. 5, 12, 19 and 26
Hancock Wellness Center, 888 W. New Road, Greenfield
6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Mondays Jan. 2, 9, 16 and 23
Hancock Wellness Center, 8505 N. Clearview Dr., McCordsville
6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays Nov. 30, Dec. 7, 14 and 21
Participants must attend each session in the four-week program.
To register, call Brandee Bastin at 317-468-4162 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.