“If you’re a smoker — quit now.”
These words ring out loud and clear in a powerful obituary written by Geoffrey Turner, a Latham man who passed away earlier this year. Instead of reflecting on his personal or career accomplishments, Turner used his obituary to send an unequivocal message about the dangers of smoking.
“I did many good things, helped lots of people, and even made a decent living,” Mr. Turner wrote. “At 66 years old, I lived a decent life, but there are so many events and milestones I will not be able to share with my loved ones.”
The obituary, published in the Feb. 16 and 17 editions of the Albany Times Union newspaper, drew attention from media outlets and public health organizations across the state. The North Country Healthy Heart Network appreciates Mr. Turner’s candidness — too often, the dangers of smoking are glossed over. The reality is that smoking can and will result in chronic disease, and remains the most preventable cause of death.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Cancer Institute, and the Food and Drug Administration released findings from the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey. The results were alarming: for the first time in decades, the use of tobacco products by our youth has increased.
The Heart Network is encouraged by New York State’s decision to increase the age for purchasing tobacco products to 21. Several other proposals under consideration could reverse trends in youth tobacco use, including ending the sale of tobacco and electronic cigarette products in pharmacies and implementing new display restrictions. These steps are important because we know that 90 percent of smokers started before turning 19 — if you don’t start by then, the chances of becoming addicted decrease dramatically.
Quitting smoking is difficult, but the Heart Network’s Health Systems for a Tobacco Free NY is here to connect those looking to quit with proven resources that can help. To learn more, visit www.heartnetwork.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (518) 891-5855. In Mr. Turner’s own words: “Your life depends on it and those that you love depend upon your life.”
Danyelle Jones is project coordinator for the North Country Healthy Heart Network’s Health Systems for a Tobacco Free NY program.