Pittsfield- State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) and State Representative Denis E. Guyer (D-Dalton) are pleased to announce that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program has issued a three-year $350,000 Community Smoking Intervention Demonstration (CSI) grant to Berkshire Area Health Education Center, Inc. (Berkshire AHEC) in Pittsfield. This grant targets the communities of Adams, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Florida, New Ashford, North Adams, Savoy and Williamstown.
Downing said, “The leading cause of preventable death in Massachusetts comes with an annual cost to the Massachusetts economy of $5.5 billion, tobacco is a public health and an economic issue. I am pleased that this funding has been awarded to Berkshire AHEC, allowing them to initiate tobacco control programs in our high risk communities.”
The purpose of this demonstration project is to implement multi-level, population-based tobacco control interventions that will change community norms in order to influence behaviors and, ultimately, reduce tobacco use in communities with high smoking rates.
Timothy Diehl, Executive Director of Berkshire AHEC said “We have successfully demonstrated a strong understanding of the role that community norm change plays in this important process and we are pleased to be chosen for this important work in the northern Berkshires. Berkshire AHEC, with the continued support of key collaborators, will build upon the smoking planning work completed last June.”
Berkshire AHEC will focus on several priority objectives and with more intensive outreach to specific populations. The priorities are: 1) integrate tobacco control strategies into existing health promotion and disease prevention programs, 2) promote smoking cessation; 3); support the Smoke-Free Workplace Law, including in public schools 4); increase voluntary smoke-free policies; and 5) address tobacco-related disparities.
Representative Guyer said, “I am happy to see Berkshire AHEC receive this funding to support tobacco control programs in the Berkshires. As an area of the state that has a relatively high tobacco usage rate, this funding will support programs to educate people on the dangers of tobacco and hopefully save lives in the long run.”
The Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program, through the work of Berkshire AHEC, will conduct these interventions to further strengthen the community’s capacity to address tobacco issues in the future. Evaluation of these demonstration projects will provide useful information about the level and length of interventions needed to ensure enduring norm change, and about how well strategies transfer across different populations and communities.
The mission of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program is to reduce the health and economic burden of tobacco use by preventing young people from smoking, helping current smokers to quit, protecting children and adults from secondhand smoke, and identifying and eliminating tobacco-related disparities. In Fiscal Year 2007, MTCP’s $8.3 million dollar budget helped to fund local and statewide programs, addressing tobacco on many levels: changing social norms, helping smokers quit, informing policy decisions, and enforcing laws to protect nonsmokers.