Help nearby for tobacco quitters

Published 7:00 am Thursday, December 17, 2015

At the start of a new year, people make a list of resolutions in an effort to live a happier and healthier lifestyle. Kim Hart, program director for the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition of Hancock and Pearl River Counties, said smokers should add plans to quit smoking to those resolutions.

The coalition, funded by a grant from the Mississippi State Department of Health’s Office of Tobacco Control, is one of the tobacco-free coalitions across the state aiming to reduce tobacco-related disease and death by educating people—young and old— about the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke.

Hart, along with members of the local coalition, visit area schools and host seminars to educate the community about the dangers of tobacco use.

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“We know that tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S.,” Hart said.

The local coalition offers programs to help smokers kick the habit. The programs include, Reject all Tobacco, Generation Free, Care for their Air, Smoke free Air Mississippi and the Mississippi Tobacco Quitline—all the programs focus on educating people of all ages about tobacco-prevention and reducing their exposure to secondhand smoke.

“The no. 1 thing we use is the Mississippi Tobacco Quitline that allows people in Mississippi to receive services such as counseling and nicotine replacements to help them begin the steps to quit,” Hart said.

The quitline can be reached at 1-800-784-8669. Follow Mississippi Tobacco Quitline on Facebook at Mississippi Tobacco Quitline or Twitter at @QuitlineMS.

Hart said constant tobacco use could result in serious health conditions.

“We know cigarettes contain 7,000 chemicals and 69 of those are cancerous,” Hart said.

Exposure to secondhand smoke is just as dangerous.

“In the state of Mississippi, 510 people died of secondhand smoke last year. We know exposure to secondhand smoke causes lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema, which applies to smokers too,” Hart said.

In 2010, Mississippi led the nation in new local smokefree laws, according to the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalitions website.

City officials with Picayune and Poplarville have made efforts to keep the county’s municipalities smoke free. Last year, Picayune became 100 percent smoke free with the Mississippi Tobacco Free Program. Private clubs are excluded from this ordinance and smokers must be five feet from a building when smoking, according to a story in July 2014.

The city of Poplarville joined Picayune and other municipalities across Mississippi in November of last year, according to a story in October 2014.

“That’s a huge accomplishment for the county having both incorporated cities smoke free,” Hart said.

There are many nicotine replacement therapy products available to those looking to quit, said Kelly Andrews, a licensed practical nurse at the Covenant Health and Rehab of Picayune.

“They can purchase nicotine patches, gums and mints to help them quit smoking,” Andrews said. “Like with any New Year’s resolution, it’s difficult to stay on course but it’s possible.”

In the end, education is key to ensure a smoke free future, Hart said.

To learn more about the coalition, contact Hart at 228-282-2622 or at or visit