Organizations Plan for Tobacco-Free Basin

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND/ODESSA - After Wednesday's move by the hospitals local organizations say this is going to have a snowball effect for other companies and organizations to toss out the ash trays. The number of tobacco users in West Texas is double the amount for the rest of the state, but now a state grant looks to change that.

"It's going to have a great impact," Gino Solla with the Ector County Health Department, said.

County officials say the announcement of tobacco-free hospitals is just the start of things to come in West Texas.

"Lung Cancer and lung disease is higher here than it is throughout the State and smoking rates are higher," Solla said.

According to the Health Department, the State average is about 12 percent, but in the Basin 22 percent use tobacco products.

"We have the type of attitude that we like our individual rights," Solla said. "We like to smoke, we like to rodeo, we like to barbeque and I think it's just part of the culture out here."

So the Health Department applied for a grant and created a coalition in the hopes of rallying folks in the Basin to call it quits.

"It will bring us all together with one focus purpose and that is to improve the health of the community by encouraging non-smoking in the community," Betty Bradley with the Permian Basin Regional Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, said.

The Ector County Health Department plans to petition elected officials in an effort to establish more tobacco-free zones so the ban's not just limited to hospitals.

"We're going to medical providers, we're going to large employers, we're going to the public, we just think it's time in Ector County and Midland County to address an issue that is prevalent here," Solla said.

The Permian Basin Drug and Alcohol Council promotes the "Quit Line." It's a free counseling service that offers products to help smokers put the cigarette down. Our area has the second highest calls in the entire state, second only to San Antonio.

"The calls from this area to the Quit Line have been very surprising and phenomenal in comparison to the larger populated communities in the State," Bradley said. "So our citizens are responding and taking this seriously."

If you want to learn more about the Quit Line, the number is 1-877-YES-QUIT. The counseling is held over the phone and it's confidential.