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Free Webinar Looks at the Intersection of Smoking and Food Insecurity
07:55AM / Wednesday, August 03, 2022
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DALTON, Mass. — Smokers, on average, pay about $11 for a pack of cigarettes. So, if they stop, lower-income smokers should have more money. Right? 
But the calculation isn't that simple when other stress factors are considered, such as food insecurity. 
"You have to understand that when people are addicted to nicotine, nicotine may serve a couple of functions, smokers may feel, it helps them reduce stress," said Joyce Brewer, manager of Berkshire AHEC's Tobacco-Free Community Partnership Program. "Or if they are food insecure, it might staunch the feeling that they're hungry so that they have enough to feed their children." 
The Berkshire Area Health Education Center is hosting a free webinar on Thursday, Aug. 18, from 8:30 to 10 a.m., to educate the community on the correlation between food insecurity and smoking cessation with Jin Kim-Mozeleski, assistant professor in the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. 
Professor Kim-Mozeleski will discuss the link between food insecurity and tobacco use while analyzing recent research studies. 
A common misconception that they are working to dispute is the idea that if someone stopped purchasing cigarettes then they would have money, but there are many factors that people do not consider that contradict this. 
Brewer said they want to inform the community how social-economic status, tobacco use, and health are all interconnected. She has been working for three years on a case study that is funded through a grant from Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program. 
"Food insecurity affects your health. It impacts children's development and impacts someone's ability to try to quit. In my travels and doing presentations, people will often say, 'Well, I know I smoke more when I'm stressed,'" Brewer said 
"So, we can't ask people to try to quit if they're worried about food, feeding their families, housing, and employment which are all a part of making a healthier community for all.  
Brewer noted that the issue of food insecurity has been exacerbated because of COVID-19. Communities of color have been impacted the greatest not only in the effects of the virus but in food insecurity. 
"[This webinar is important] because we have learned long ago — but more exacerbated during the last few years — that the social determinants of health have a great impact on community health,” AHEC Executive Director Gena DiSimoni Johnson said. 
"And if we're going to solve problems before they start, rather than address the symptoms when they exist, we need to educate more people about how everything is connected." 
Brewer said that although the novel coronavirus has intensified this issue, the size of the Berkshires allows for good communication between organizations. She is also part of Northern Berkshire and South County Food Access collaboratives. 
There are options for those trying to quit smoking. Those interested in quitting can reach out to the MA Smokers' Helpline at 1-800-Quit-Now for free coaching and support. Quit Now is also offering menthol smokers up to $50 in gift cards to Massachusetts residents who participate in the coaching services. 
Berkshire AHEC is a local nonprofit that provides continuing education and community education on topics surrounding all aspects of health care. 
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