Philadelphia Anti-Smoking Campaign Targets Groups Who Smoke Most

The Philadelphia Health Department has launched a new campaign that is designed to help the groups in the city who smoke the most in their smoking cessation journey.

Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said that smoking cessation has been overlooked as other heath emergencies have taken precedence. “Smoking contributes to the deaths of thousands of Philadelphians each year, about 3,700,” she said. “It’s not new, it’s not flashy, there’s no vaccine against it, so lots of people forget it is out there and continues to be one of our biggest killers.”

Tobacco control program manager for the city health department Ryan Coffman, said that the campaign is designed to target the groups with the highest smoking rates. “Tobacco use rates remain higher for LGBT communities, veterans, individuals living with psychiatric illness and substance use disorders, and those working in the food, hospitality, and bar industries,” said Coffman. 

A counterproductive tobacco free policy
In January 2019, Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services (DBHIDS) implemented a tobacco-free policy, which included vaping, in drug rehab facilities. When the measure was announced, DBHIDS Commissioner David Jones cited National Institutes of Health research indicating that individuals with substance use disorder (SUD) were less likely to relapse if they also quit smoking.

Naturally, real life data was indicating quite the opposite. A study of 112 people with substance use disorder (SUD) in the US city of Philadelphia, found that the vast majority of those who left rehab facilities prematurely did so because they were unable to smoke during treatment. “Huge step backwards for recovery, it sucks!” said one of the study participants.

Thankfully, the ban which applied to 80 inpatient addiction treatment programs, including nine detox facilities, 32 short-term and 31 long-term rehabilitation programs, and eight halfway houses, has been lifted.

An article on Filter highlighted that after years of defending its policy by saying it is evidence-based, the DBHIDS did not offer an explanation. Instead, its commissioner, Dr. Jill Bowen said in an interview, “I don’t think it was ever intended to be a ban.”