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Health Advocates Tackle New Challenges on World No Tobacco Day

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Health Advocates Tackle New Challenges on World No Tobacco Day
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Smoking isn't as common a sight as it used to be. The American Cancer Society says about 19 percent of the U.S. population uses cigarettes today. That's compared to 49 percent that smoked 50 years ago. Sarah Blazonis shares about some of the new challenges facing health advocates this "World No Tobacco Day."

ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- People can do it in fewer and fewer places and it's draining more from your wallet, but health professionals say there's still work to be done when it comes to fighting the effects of tobacco products.

"In many developing countries, [tobacco products] have killed more people of the world than infectious disease, than tuberculosis, malaria, AIDS," said Dr. Leslie Kohman, medical director of Upstate Cancer Center.

Visitors to this year's World No Tobacco Day event at Destiny USA could check out some of the tried and true ways to monitor health effects of tobacco use, but they could also learn about Upstate University Hospital's lung cancer screening program. The low-dose CT scan takes just seconds, and while not all insurance covers the test, the payoff can be huge.

"There was a 20 percent reduction in mortality if people who are current or former smokers, former within 15 years, have this quick and easy chest CT scan," said Upstate Cancer Center Special Projects Manager Linda Veit.

One of the goals of this year's campaign is to encourage lawmakers to raise taxes on tobacco products and to get the public to help with that effort. The local chapter of the American Cancer Society is working to do just that here in New York State.

Current state legislation isn't focused on raising taxes, but on e-cigarettes. Officials with the American Cancer Society say they're working with the State Senate to include them in smoke free zones and clean air policies to combat an unexpected effect of the devices.

"It's renormalizing the use of tobacco. So, we're going to start to see an increase of our youth and everybody else, and once they start on e-cigarettes, it's a direct lead-in to using tobacco products," said Martha Ryan, the American Cancer Society's senior director for community engagement.

It's a trend advocates say they want to stop before it begins.

An American Cancer Society representative says state legislation is also in the works to prohibit flavored tobacco, which can be attractive to children.

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