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Free Nicotine Replacement to Help Quit Tobacco Use

Craig Sterling

North Platte, NE – Free nicotine replacement products are available throughout the month of January for persons who wish to quit tobacco use.

Call the Nebraska Tobacco Quitline at-1-800-QUIT-NOW (-1-800-784-8669) and for Spanish services at 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (-1-855-355-3569) anytime for free counseling. These services are available in more than 170 languages.

The two-week supply of FREE nicotine gum, patches or lozenges is available while supplies last. This offer is available for Nebraska residents who are 18 years of age or older.  Callers will be screened for medical eligibility to receive the medication which is shipped directly to the callers’ home. All information provided to the Quitline is confidential.

For additional resources visit

Funding for this project is provided by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services/Tobacco Free Nebraska Program as a result of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.

"Pigcasso" project raises over $3,000 for substance abuse prevention.

Craig Sterling

Talented local artists painted ceramic piggy banks and created other piggy sculptures that were auctioned off at a fun event at Prairie Arts Center on September 19. 

Thanks to Nebraskaland National Bank for donating the piggy banks. Thanks to Prairie Arts Center for a painting event and other advance preparations, serving pulled pork sandwiches, etc. Thanks to everyone who attended and bid on the herd of delightful and elegant pieces of art! 

It was a fun evening in a beautiful atmosphere. Together we raised over $3000 for substance abuse prevention in Lincoln County!

Report tells heavy cost society bears for smoking

Craig Sterling

Smoking places a heavy toll on society, and a new report states how serious the financial burden is.

On Wednesday, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) issued the following statement: “Nationally, estimated smoking-caused health costs and lost productivity total $19.16 per pack” of cigarettes smoked.  That is over three times the average price of a pack of cigarettes, including taxes.

All fifty states, the U.S. territories, Washington D.C., and some cities have an excise tax on cigarettes, (separate from regular sales taxes). The federal government also collects $1.01 tax per pack. The goal is to offset some of the health care costs that society bears, and to discourage smoking.

However, cigarette excise taxes vary widely.  The highest is in Puerto Rico, where the tax rate was just increased to $5.10 per pack. Nebraska ranks 41st of the 50 states, with the low tax rate of $0.64. Nebraska has not raised its rate for 15 years.

The tobacco industry lobbies hard against tax increases. At the same time, it markets  its products aggressively: in magazines, in movies, in video games, over the Internet and, especially, at the store level. The CTFK report stated that, as a result, one in ten children become smokers by the time they leave high school (2016, Univ. of Michigan research).

CTFK quoted former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who said “5.6 million children under age 18 alive today will eventually die from smoking-related disease, unless current rates are reversed” (2014).

Smokers pay a heavy price for their addiction. The financial toll on society is substantial. Only the tobacco industry wins.


Drive Children to School in Smoke-free Vehicles.

Craig Sterling

With the school year underway, Community Connections—Tobacco Free Lincoln County encourages parents to make sure their children ride in smoke-free vehicles. Children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to get sick, and to have trouble learning in school.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children who are exposed to secondhand smoke have increased risks of bronchitis and other respiratory infections, middle ear infections and more severe asthma. Smoke can also slow lung growth, with permanent consequences. It can make it more difficult to concentrate, too.

Smoke settles into seats, door panels and ceiling liners of vehicles. It re-enters the air for a long time afterwards. Then it is called third-hand smoke.  Breathing third-hand smoke is also dangerous.

Children are growing rapidly, their lungs and brains are developing, and they breathe more air for their body sizes than adults do. All of those things put children at a greater risk for the health problems linked to smoke.

The only good answer is to keep the vehicle smoke-free. Rolling down a window does not eliminate the problem, because much of the smoke stays in the vehicle anyway.

Help your children have a good year at school, by keeping your vehicles, and their world, smoke-free.

Tobacco Free Lincoln County is a local partnership that focuses on keeping children from starting to use tobacco, reducing access to tobacco products, and increasing awareness about the dangers of secondhand smoke. It is funded by the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services Tobacco Free Nebraska Program as a result of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.

Sutherland Housing Authority now 100% smoke-free indoors

Craig Sterling

Congratulations to Sutherland Housing Authority (Sandy Acres) for their comprehensive indoor smoke-free policies.  As a result, everyone can breathe easier!

Secondhand smoke is harmful to everyone, especially children, the elderly, and those with respiratory sensitivities. It can cause ear infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, learning difficulties and impaired lung development, and can trigger serious asthma attacks. It can even cause sudden infant death syndrome, heart disease and cancer.

Smoke from one apartment can travel throughout the building, so the only answer is a smoke-free policy for the entire building.

Community Connections Tobacco Free Lincoln County Coalition appreciates all the apartment owners, managers and residents who have adopted and support smoke-free policies.

We are a local partnership that focuses on reducing secondhand smoke exposure and youth access to tobacco. When people want to quit using tobacco, we direct them to helpful resources. We are funded by the Nebraska Health & Human Services, Tobacco Free Nebraska Program, as a result of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.


George Haws, coordinator of Tobacco Free Lincoln County

Thanks to our donors on Giving Day

Craig Sterling

Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation hosted the second North Platte Giving Day on May 2

THANKS VERY, VERY MUCH to all who gave so generously! We are solely grant funded, so opportunities such as North Platte Giving Day are very important to our work.

We work in Lincoln County, to reduce underage drinking, drug abuse, secondhand smoke exposure and youth tobacco initiation. We also have a mentoring program for children in kindergarten through seventh grades, and conduct youth development and leadership programs in the schools. 


New Smoke-free Duplexes in Lincoln County

Craig Sterling

North Platte has four, brand new, smoke-free apartments on the north side of town – and they are beautiful and spacious. The two duplexes, Sheridan Estates, are at 18th Street and Sheridan Avenue.

Congratulations and thank you, to Nancy Strieble, and Lincoln County Community Development Corporation for offering these and other high quality, affordable homes in our area.

Thank you, especially, for designating the apartments smoke-free, right from the start.

Smoke can move from one apartment to others throughout the entire building. Smoke-free policies are important in keeping homes clean and healthy, preventing costly damage to the buildings, and reducing the risk of fire.

Secondhand smoke is especially harmful to children and can damage their developing lungs. It causes ear infections, bronchitis, headaches, pneumonia and other breathing problem. It can make it harder to concentrate and do well in school. Secondhand smoke can even cause premature birth, sudden infant death syndrome and cancer.  Dogs, cats and other pets also suffer. There is no safe level of secondhand smoke.

Thank you again, Lincoln County Community Development Corporation, and all the other apartment owners and managers in Lincoln County, who have smoke-free policies for their buildings.

Good news and bad news for Men’s Health Month

Craig Sterling

First the good news: the adult smoking rate is down. The bad news, for Men’s Health Month, is that a lot of men are still suffering the consequences of smoking.

In Lincoln County, the overall adult smoking rate has dropped from 19% in 2011, to 17% today ( ) .

Smoking makes life worse: start with bad breath and inability to taste your food, and move right on to higher risks of erectile dysfunction! 

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking can damage every part of the body. It can cause stroke, coronary heart disease, pneumonia and gum disease. Smoking increases the risks of developing diabetes, cataracts, macular degeneration and other diseases.

It has been known for over 50 years, that smoking causes lung cancer. The CDC reports that smokers are also at greater risk for cancers of the throat, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidney, bladder, colon and rectum.

Smokers get sick more often and have a harder time recovering from surgery and illness.

Some men decide the costs, and risks, are too great, and decide it’s time – to quit. It takes an entire mental shift. There are local groups who can help. Great Plains Health has free classes. Call (308) 568-7530. Free coaching and counseling are available by calling the Nebraska Quit Line at (800) QUIT NOW. The Quit Line also provides free nicotine replacement products to those who qualify.

Community Connections - Tobacco Free Lincoln County is a local group that is funded by Tobacco Free Nebraska (Nebraska Health& Human Services). They provide information about tobacco and secondhand smoke, and quitting.  They are at or 696-3356.

2016 was a big year for tobacco awareness and control

Craig Sterling

NORTH PLATTE – 2016 was a big year for tobacco awareness and prevention, throughout the country and locally.

About 60 youth took a prominent role in tobacco awareness in a rally on Philip, between the one ways, on June 3. Media stories showed the youth holding signs and shouting rhymes and chants, drawing attention to ways tobacco companies try to get kids to use their deadly products. People driving by, honked and waved approval. The youth were part of a Community Connections leadership camp, help for the first time in 2016.

The next month Nebraska State Patrol did their random checks in our area, to see how well businesses were complying with the law prohibiting sales of tobacco to minors. Only one store, out of 18, sold to the cooperating, undercover youth, for a compliance rate of 94%.

The minimum age for tobacco sales in Nebraska, is 18. However that could change, if the nationwide momentum from 2016 continues. In May, California raised their tobacco sales age to 21.  LB 73, introduced in the Nebraska legislature this session, would do the same here. Hawaii was the first state to pass a Tobacco 21 law, in 2015.

In 2016, a lot of attention was also given to reducing secondhand smoke exposure in places like parks, campuses and public housing.

Some residents would like to see more smoke-free areas in North Platte City parks. Community Connections-Tobacco Free Lincoln County Coalition* met with the city council in a work session in May, to share ideas and talk about options. No decisions were made at that time. As the year ended, the coalition was conducting surveys to estimate the level of community support for making places like the children’s playgrounds and tennis courts smoke-free. They plan to present their findings to the city council this spring. Currently, smoking is prohibited at the splash pad, swimming pool, carnival rides, dog parks and ball fields.

Meanwhile, students attending the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and UN-Kearney, are benefitting from tobacco-free campus policies that took effect at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. The universities join Mid-Plains Community College and six other colleges and universities across the state, that were already smoke-free.

Residents in public housing will breathe easier, because of rules announced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in November. They require all the units to be made smoke-free by mid-2018.  Autumn Park in North Platte is already smoke-free, but the scattered duplexes and single family homes are not.

Local e-cigarette shopkeepers are paying attention to regulations announced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2016. The rules affect manufacture, labeling and sales of the products.

Baseball fans are seeing fewer major league players with cans in their back pockets and tobacco wads in their mouths. In November, an MLB collective bargaining agreement prohibited new players from using smokeless tobacco.

Travelers need to know about new laws prohibiting smoking in cars with children inside. In 2016, Virginia became the eighth state to protect children in this way. They follow Arkansas, Louisiana, Vermont, Maine, Utah, Oregon and California.

*TFLC is a local coalition working to reduce involuntary secondhand smoke exposure and youth tobacco initiation. It is funded by Nebraska Health & Human Services, Tobacco Free Nebraska Program, as a result of the 1998 Tobacco Settlement Agreement.

Big news in tobacco control

Craig Sterling

We got some big and exciting news in tobacco control this week!

First, California just became the second state to prohibit sales of tobacco products under age 21, then we learned that high courts upheld tobacco graphic warnings requirements in India, and prohibition on flavored tobacco in the European Union, and finally, the FDA announced that it will regulate e-cigarettes, all cigars and other tobacco products.

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E-cigarettes pose poisoning risk

Craig Sterling

Community Connections Tobacco Free Lincoln County (TFLC) reminds residents that tobacco and other nicotine products are a poisoning risk to children. That includes the liquids used in e-cigarettes.

George Haws, coordinator of TFLC, said that a very small amount of the liquid nicotine used to refill e-cigarettes can be deadly for a child.  Many of the liquids have fruity flavors and aromas, which can make them especially attractive to children, he said. He added that people are sometimes poisoned by spilling the liquids on their skin.

Haws said if someone is exposed to liquid nicotine, either on the skin or through the mouth, the Nebraska Regional Poison Center should be called immediately, at 1-800-222-1222.

An alert issued by American Association of Poison Control Centers said that, throughout the country, there were 3,073 calls about e-cigarette devices and liquid nicotine in 2015. Over half of the calls were about children under the age of six.

 “It’s very important that parents and caregivers keep ALL tobacco and nicotine products out of reach of children,” said Haws. He said nicotine can cause vomiting, nausea, lethargy, gagging, a pale or flushed appearance, difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate, seizures and even death.

Help is also available to people who want to quit using tobacco products and/or e-cigarette, said Haws. They can call the Nebraska Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) or go to  People can also take advantage of free classes offered by Great Plains Health, by calling 696-7530.

North Platte stores refuse underage tobacco sale

Craig Sterling

NORTH PLATTE--Stores all over town were targeted in a tobacco sales compliance check last Thursday, and they all passed.

            Investigator Tim Dowhower, of North Platte Police Department, oversaw the morning-time operation. He said that when the underage cooperating youth tried to purchase tobacco, all the stores asked for, and checked the youth’s identification, then refused the sale. That is exactly what they were supposed to do. 

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The impact of mentoring

Sage Merritt

In life, we are provided few situations in which we are rewarded just by walking into a room. Mentoring is one of those situations. Experience has shown that adults can have a powerful, lifelong positive impact on a child just by being themselves and spending time with a young person.

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The facts about today's marijuana

Sage Merritt

The active ingredient (THC) in today's marijuana is much higher than it was in the '60s and '70s. Then, the THC levels averaged about 2.3% whereas now it averages about 8% and can reach up to 30%.  This is because growers are manipulating and modifying the plant to make it stronger.

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