October 22, 2021

Tobacco Free Zone Program launches survey

A residential tobacco survey launched Monday is gaining quick response from Cortland County and surrounding areas, a survey consultant said.

The Tobacco Free Zone Program is part of a statewide effort to target and inform youths about the dangers of tobacco use, according to the website. The program calls on policy makers and legislature to strengthen tobacco-related policies that prevent and reduce tobacco use.

The program is working with Joel LaLone Consulting, a Watertown research firm, to call and email residents of Cortland, Tompkins and Chenango counties this week, according to a news release from the Cortland County Health Department. The information will help the program evaluate the effectiveness of past initiatives and activities they’ve provided and identify which initiatives have been the most effective.

“We go in kind of blindly to get a sense if any of our messaging or our work has reached people,” said Jennifer Hamilton, program coordinator with the Cortland County Health Department. “We would like to see support specifically for our policies that people support no sales of tobacco or vapes around schools.”

The survey is part of the program’s grant requirements, Hamilton said. The program has to complete an evaluation project each year and this year, they chose to do an adult community tobacco survey.

The survey will continue through the end of the month, according to the release. Questions cover tobacco marketing and promotion, tobacco smoke exposure and use of tobacco products. It takes about 10 minutes to complete.

“Approximately 100 completed the online version throughout the three counties and we have about 125 that we completed on the phone last night (Monday) in Cortland County,” said survey coordinator Joel LaLone, principal of Joel LaLone Consulting.“We are 225 into our goal of 1,200.”

“I have to proudly say Jen Hamilton and all the other colleagues that she works with are truly passionate experts at this,” LaLone said. “These studies do not just sit on a shelf in an office, they are experts.”

Similar programs are conducted every two years, LaLone said.

The questions are prompted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and vetted at a state and local level where researchers, like Hamilton, can customize questions based on population.

“I have clients that I ask at the end of the survey how they are really going to utilize their data and they pause or struggle to answer,” LaLone said. “Jen Hamilton has no pause in saying how she can use the data.”

“This is a big thing we have been working on with elected officials,” Hamilton said. “It’s nice for them to see the public support some of the work we are trying to accomplish here.”