Partners for Health: A Grassroots Effort to Reduce Tobacco Use in Nebraska

Cindy Jeffrey

Cindy Jeffrey

In Nebraska, collaboration is key to success. And for reducing tobacco use in Nebraska, partnering of local and state organizations has brought great success for the health of Nebraskans. You have experienced the success of that partnership – if you’ve ever entered a restaurant or any business and breathe in clean, yes, that clean air free of smoke. Advocating for and maintaining policies, programs and laws like the Nebraska Clean Indoor Air Act are one of the successes of the effort that helps build healthy tobacco-free communities in our state.
Tobacco control has risen and attained more support from academic research in the recent past. The last 50 years of the US Surgeon’s general report has helped gather consistent long-term proof of health disparities caused by tobacco. According to the Surgeon General’s 2014 report, cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the US, where 41,000 deaths are a result of secondhand smoke exposure. A threat to our society right now is that if smoking persists at the current rate among youth in the US, 5.6 million of our youth younger than 18 years of age are estimated to die from smoking related illness.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), recognizes that tobacco use costs our country billions of dollars each year in direct medical care and lost in productivity. For this reason, the CDC makes recommendations for state efforts in tobacco control. With money from tobacco industry legal settlements and tobacco excise taxes, states have funding available to exercise research proven strategies against tobacco use.
The CDC estimates that this 2014 fiscal year, states will collect $25.7 billion, but will only spend 1.9% of it on prevention and cessation programs. CDC recommended funding levels, meant to effectively reduce tobacco use in every state, is never met. This fact is unfortunate and a reality that members like Matt Prokop of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and Cindy Jeffrey of Health Education Inc. are trying to change in the state of Nebraska with other partners through the Creating a Movement state effort.

Matt Prokop

Matt Prokop

Organizations like the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association, Health Education Inc., and local agencies have gathered to build robust, sustainable efforts to reduce tobacco use that can closer meet recommendations from the CDC.

Their approach? The partners follow a 3 legged stool approach, as Matt Prokop put it, to combat tobacco; an approach that matches CDC and the World Health Organization strategy recommendations. The strategies include monitoring and advocating for comprehensive smoke free laws, reaching CDC recommended funding levels, and fighting for appropriate tobacco tax levels. Sadly, Nebraska falls 38th in the nation when it comes to implementing tobacco tax and has been in an uphill battle for the movement in tobacco tax increase to gain support.

As Athena mentioned in an earlier blog, the national tobacco tax average is $1.53 per pack, Nebraska’s tax is at a dim $.64 per pack.
One goal that Creating a Movement hopes to push, through policy education, is gaining support to match our neighbor’s Iowa tobacco tax of $1.36. This change, although not an ideal rate, would at least get us closer to an appropriate tax level. Increasing tobacco tax, across the country, has proven to reduce resident’s tobacco use, therefore saving lives and reducing medical and loss of productivity to the state.

Nebraska’s partners hope to reach their goals by engaging the media, putting out messages that counter the tobacco industry’s influence; mobilizing community champions and local spokespeople that can support and build personal connections to the problem; and communicating with legislators to educate on tobacco health disparities to build a case for reform.

Finally, at the heart of the effort are partnerships that represent diverse agencies working on the grassroots level. The movement serves as an open line of communication with the tobacco control community and in pooling resources to utilize best practices for saving lives in Nebraska.

If you’d like to download a report on the toll of tobacco in Nebraska, and receive regular news updates on tobacco issues around the country.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Morbidity and mortality weekly report. 63(21), 1-20. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). The health consequences of smoking-50 years of progress: A report of the surgeon general. Retrieved from

LTC at NAP’s Condom Fashion Show

LTC in redThis Thursday, June 27th, 2013 at the Magnolia Hotel in downtown Omaha, Latinas, Tabaco, y Cáncer will be participating in the Project Condom Fashion Show

The Project Condom Fashion Show is an entertaining and educational event featuring fashion designs made with condoms to promote safer sex and HIV awareness. The Project Condom Fashion Show is a benefit that aims to raise funds towards Nebraska AIDS Project’s client services and education programs.

Latinas, Tabaco, y Cáncer (LTC) is a community-based holistic health promotion program fighting tobacco, preventing cancer, and supporting mental well-being through education, social support, and advocacy. The group’s goals are to: (1) Increase personal and family healthy decision-making; (2) Increase community capacity for positive social change; and (3) Increase overall well-being by promoting healthy lifestyles as individual women, wives, mothers, and engaged community members. LTC is led by the UNMC Center for Reducing Health Disparities’ Triple A team: Athena Ramos, Antonia Correa, and Ariss Rogel Mendoza, and is supported by the Metro Omaha Tobacco Action Coalition (MOTAC).

LTC’s decision to participate in the Condom Fashion Show stems from the women’s dedication to educate about tobacco awareness; it recognizes that the LGBT community has extreme rates of tobacco use and wants to do what it can to build awareness as a means to prevent use. In the LGBT community smoking rates are almost 70% higher than the general population. And for this reason LTC members have come together with the help of volunteers in the community, which include: Designer- Eddiy Hilliard, a community nonprofit volunteer and professional hairstylist at 1Drakeplace; Model- Tygra Slarri, this year’s Smokeless Diva and full advocate for tobacco free lifestyles and environments; Volunteer-Dustin Moorehead, event designer and co-owner of Creating Atmosphere; and Volunteer- Joao de Brito a community activist and advocate for social equality and diversity.

We are excited to introduce our design in the Project Condom Fashion Show which is set out to entertain and educate. In the same fashion, LTC and MOTAC want to educate about the dangers that tobacco causes to not just our health, but also our environment. We are particularly building awareness on the damage that our Omaha Parks endure with harmful cigarette litter, the most littered item on the planet, and the role modeling that this adult habit causes to influence youth attitudes towards socially accepting tobacco use.

Smokeless Diva will appear on the runway as a tree, representing our park’s mother nature. As she comes down she will look lively and vibrant, but at closer inspection you will see the dark side that our mother nature experiences by the litter and damage that tobacco causes her.

To have a real visual, we hope you can make it out on Thursday night at the Magnolia Hotel, located downtown at 1615 Howard Street, Omaha, Nebraska 68102.

Following are entry details:

$15 – General Admission
$35 – Reserved Seating
$100 – VIP Pass – includes cocktails and hors d’oeurves during the event!

Doors open at 6:30p
Show starts at 7:30p

To view examples of what this event is like, please check out VIDEOS and PICTURES from past shows!!

We hope you can come support us!

Today Marks the Beginning of LGBT Health Awareness Week

19238-57719It’s the 10th Annual LGBT Health Awareness Week (March 25-March 29, 2013)!  This week promotes the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender individuals and other sexual and gender minorities.  Many organizations around the country are encouraging the community to take a deeper look at tobacco use and quit smoking.

There is a higher prevalence of smoking in the LGBT community. According to a report released by the National LGBT Tobacco Control Network and the Fenway Institute in 2005, LGBT individuals are 40-70 percent more likely to smoke cigarettes than non-LGBT individuals. The same report attributes the increased use within the community to “higher levels of social stress, frequent patronage of bars and clubs, higher rates of alcohol and drug use, and direct targeting of LGBT consumers by the tobacco industry.”  A local survey conducted by the Midlands Sexual Health Research Collaborative in 2011 found that 26.2% of the sample reported smoking cigarettes everyday or some days, but nearly half of the sample (46.4%) had smoked more than 5 packs in their life. Additionally, about 1 in 5 smokers in this study reported an attempt at quitting smoking in the last 12 months.

LGBT adolescents are also of particular concern. A recent national study found that 35 percent of adolescent males and 45 percent of adolescent females who reported same-sex attraction or behavior smoked, compared with 29 percent of non-LGBT adolescents. In a 2007 study of LGBT youth, those who smoked told researchers they believe cigarettes add to a facade of toughness that decreases bullying and also act as easy ice breakers.

National LGBT Health Week is organized by the National Coalition for LGBT Health. This year’s campaign, titled “Come Out For Health,” focuses on four core principles: empowering consumers to approach their health care providers concerning their sexual orientation and gender identity; directing their providers on how to be culturally competent and sensitive to the needs of the LGBT community; creating inclusive policy making by getting people involved with government; and reaching out to a variety of communities to raise awareness about the health needs of the LGBT individuals.

For more information or to request a presentation on LGBT tobacco use and prevention initiatives in Douglas County, please contact Diana Rogel-Mendoza at (402) 559-9662 or via email at