Yesterday, I ended a smoking cessation class at a local hospital with a group of people who particularly touched my spirit. Many of them were hard-core smokers; many of them had smoking-related health issues. Many had doubts about their ability to succeed in quitting smoking.
Last night was the last class for this group, but also the eve of a turning point in tobacco cessation resources for the state of Ohio, and for me.
The Ohio Senate voted almost unanimously yesterday to clear out the remaining tobacco funds, a proposal that began suddenly two weeks ago by Ohio's governor Strickland. The funds, originally earmarked for tobacco cessation education for smokers who want to quit, were won in 1998's historical tobacco settlement which forced the tobacco company's to fork over $2.3 billion in damages to 14 states for years of lies about the health effects of tobacco use.
What this means now is, many thousands of people who have successfully quit and stayed quit because of this programming and funding will now be without resources, and many people in hospitals and health departments all across the state will be without work.
At the end of the class last night, I informed the group of this passing legislation. They then gave me cards of thanks for the class, looks of gratitude in their eyes.
Last night was particularly sad because I will not see those looks of gratitude and appreciation from the people in my classes any more, and it is likely no one else will have the opportunity to have these free resources and reduced-cost medications for quitting smoking.
After having worked nearly eight years in healthcare and with addictions, tobacco addiction is repeatedly said to be the toughest to kick.
I've seen a baby who weighed 13 ounces because she was born prematurely to a sixteen-year-old mother who smoked.
I've seen people fighting for every breath from COPD and other smoking-related illnesses, still going outside for a smoke -- a testament to this addiction.
I've seen a woman blow herself up because she was drunk, had gasoline on her skin and tried lighting a cigarette over a stove.
It is a sad day for me, and for all smokers who want to quit in Ohio. It's a sad day for lots of health educators in the state who will now be without jobs. Last night as I left my group at the local hospital, I wept on the drive home.
Saying goodbye of your own accord is hard enough. But saying goodbye because of a greedy government who can't balance its books and continually raids funds set aside specifically for helping people quit tobacco leaves me feeling helpless and with little faith in a government that's supposed to be run "by the people, for the people."