ANDERSON — Taking a long drag on his cigarette, Tyrell Davis released a puff of white smoke as he stood outside the Village Pantry on East 14th Street. Behind him, the convenience store’s windows were covered with posters touting low cigarette prices.
“I started smoking when I was 14,” said Davis, 33 of Anderson.
Davis is one of more than 28,554 people living in Madison County who smoke, part of why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is launching an adult smoking cessation campaign here this month.
"Every Try Counts” is a two-year campaign being launched in only 35 counties nationwide based on a high smoking prevalence, the adult smoking population and the availability of media in a point-of-sale environment.
Michael Felberbaum, a spokesman for the FDA, said Madison County has a smoking index of 140. The index compares the number of smokers in the county to the national average, which is 100.
The campaign will target smokers ages 25-54 who have attempted to quit smoking in the last year but were unsuccessful. It will also encourage smokers to quit by using print, digital, radio and billboards advertising the health benefits of quitting and will also be displayed at gas stations, convenience stores and retail locations where cigarettes are sold.
Davis said he doubts the campaign will be successful.
“It would make a difference,” he said. “You have to have the willpower to quit. If you don’t, you will fall right back into it. I know, it’s hard.”
According to the FDA, cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, contributing to 480,000 deaths a year.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of premature death and disease in the United States, causing more deaths annually than alcohol, HIV, car accidents, illegal drugs, and firearm-related incidents combined, according to Indiana’s Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Commission.
In Indiana, 11,100 people each year die from tobacco use, according to the commission. The agency said that in 2016, smoking was higher among adults with lower education, lower income, the uninsured, and those with poorer mental health status.
The FDA says that of the more than 22 million people who smoke, or two out of every three adult smokers, say they would like to quit. Davis is one of them.
“I really would,” Davis said. “But I only smoke cigarettes once a day.”
Nathaniel Smith, 25, of Anderson, said he has been smoking since age 9. He said advertisements used to sell cigarettes, like the "Marlboro Man," were not the reason he started to smoke, so he doubts a campaign on smoking cessation will work either.
“It’s stress,” Smith said of his reasons for smoking. “I’ll support the movement, but it’s not going to do anything for me.”
The FDA plans to partner with the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute to feature cessation resources, such as a text message program, a mobile app, and providing trained cessation coaches who can be reached through online chat or by phone.
The agency will also provide information on FDA-approved cessation medications.