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Task force targets teens, smoking

September 15, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Targeting youth before they start smoking, funding support groups and creating cessation programs are some of the suggestions the public had for members of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Task Force to End Smoking during a meeting Wednesday.

Glendening on June 3 announced plans for an aggressive program intended to dramatically reduce tobacco use of all types in Maryland. The plan emphasizes programs to reach young people and minority communities, according to a Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene press release.

The governor formed the task force to receive public input throughout the state about tobacco use. The members will consider the information and make recommendations to the governor by Nov. 1.

The plan is to spend $30 million dollars annually on the anti-smoking effort over the next 10 years.

Task force members Maryland Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, Dr. Albert Blumberg and Mary M. Weaver, coordinator, Breast & Cervical Cancer Program for the Washington County Health Department attended the meeting at the Western Maryland Hospital Center on Pennsylvania Avenue.

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McFadden urged the people who spoke out at the meeting to express their concerns to their elected officials.

"You can more than anyone else influence their votes," he said.

Lynn Whithall of the Frederick County Tobacco Free Coalition told the panel the state needs a comprehensive prevention program that focuses on children in elementary and middle schools.

"We need a program that will teach them that smoking is not cool. It's not an easy task but it's easier than treating the illnesses smoking can cause," said Whithall.

Separate cessation programs designed for teens and adults also will help address the problem, she said.

Other ideas included creating multi-partnered coalitions, generating anti-smoking advertising and placing more emphasis on enforcing the law that prohibits selling tobacco to minors.

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