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Letters to the editor, Dec. 17 Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 10, 2013 at 12:29 AM

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No butts about it

Tobacco dependence is our nation's No. 1 preventable health problem. Most of us have heard about the impact it has on our physical health, more than 430,000 Americans die each year as a result of tobacco use.

It goes beyond that though. Tobacco, especially cigarette smoking, takes an enormous toll on the economic health of business and industry each year in terms of healthcare costs, disability, lost time, fires, insurance and liability.

Awareness of the cost of smoking and of the impact of secondhand smoke is growing as more workplaces adopt tobacco free policies. The need is evident and the climate right for employers involvement in smoking prevention and cessation.

The work environment can provide an optimal support system for employees wishing to quit. According to a U.S. Surgeon General's report, comprehensive tobacco prevention programs are most effective in addressing tobacco use.

Worksite smoking cessation classes support employees in their effort to quit smoking while setting the tone for a positive, wellness-oriented work environment. With minimal or no cost, employers can reduce the human and economic cost of smoking for themselves and their employees. Cessation classes coupled with educational initiatives and restrictions on workplace smoking create a nonsmoking culture conducive to health and wellness. Enforced smoke-free policies have the greatest impact on health, offering the best protection from primary and secondhand smoke while at work.

Smoke-free policies create opportunities for reduced insurance costs and lower maintenance costs. They send a clear message that smoking is not tolerated, perhaps providing the greatest motivation for smokers to quit.

In collaboration with Gulfcoast North Area Health Education Center, the Hernando County Health Department is working to decrease tobacco dependence in our community by offering free worksite based smoking cessation classes to local businesses. Contact the Health Department at (352) 540-6817 to learn more about helping your employees make 2012 the year they "kick the tobacco habit" for good.

Philip W. Spence

Interim administrator of Hernando County Health Department

Raising awareness

I was saddened to read about the Lark family in the Dec. 12 story, "Struggling to keep their heads above water."

Unfortunately, people with disabilities like Robert Lark often deal with financial complications on top of their illness. When no longer able to work and earn an income, they become unable to pay their bills and medical expenses. In fact, there are more than 488,888 Floridians currently receiving disability benefits and countless more who could qualify.

That's why raising awareness for disabilities includes the knowledge of how to avoid a financial disaster. Federal assistance is available through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program to those who qualify. The SSDI program provides benefits to Americans unable to work due to a severe, long-term disability. The key to qualifying for these federal benefits — and avoiding a financial meltdown — is to submit a well-prepared application as early as possible.

According to an Allsup survey, an alarming 15 percent of pending SSDI claimants are in, or expect to be in, foreclosure proceedings. Five percent faced bankruptcy. Since the qualifying process for SSDI can take months — sometimes years — it's crucial not to waste any time applying.

So if you or a loved one might be eligible for SSDI, don't wait to file a claim. Taking this step early is critical to keeping your head above water and achieving some financial stability in the wake of a debilitating diagnosis.

Jim Allsup

President and CEO of Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security disability representation and Medicare plan selection services based in Belleville, Ill.

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