Why central New Yorkers are smoking more than in the rest of the state

Jan 19, 2015

More central New Yorkers are apt to smoke cigarettes, than anywhere else in New York State. This comes at a time when most private health insurance plans, as well as Medicaid and Medicare cover smoking cessation strategies. So why the disconnect?  Experts say getting people to quit comes down to education.

According to the New York State Health Department, just over 22 percent of central New York adults smoke. The state smoking rate is 10 points below that.  

Cynthia Cary Woods, who runs smoking cessation programs out of Upstate University Hospital, finds these smokers among several different populations -- from people with mental health diagnoses, to lower-income individuals, and people in rural areas who don’t have access to care.  

One common thread that runs through these populations -- unfamiliarity with the strategies to help them quit. For example, many people are confused about the medicated patches, gums and lozenges that make it easier to become an ex-smoker.

“People try, they fail, and they think it just doesn’t work. When they find out how to use it correctly, there are much higher rates of success,” said Cary Woods.

But she says getting people into the classes or using medication can be a struggle, because even if a smoker wants to quit, they often don’t know how.  

That’s why Cary Woods would like to see more smoking cessation training for all health professionals, not just physicians, because a word from a nurse or therapist can sometimes be enough to start the ball rolling.

“If you get a little better reimbursement for the people like [health care providers], if you get some of the therapists out there or the people who are really down in the trenches, we might stand a chance of effecting some change.”