Featured in CPRIT’s recently released 2021 Annual Report, Taking Texas Tobacco Free (TTTF) was honored for its innovative, effective work in cancer prevention.
Funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), the TTTF initiative was launched by Dr. Lorraine Reitzel and her colleagues at MD Anderson Cancer Center and Integral Care of Austin/Travis County in 2013. Since the inception of TTTF, Dr. Reitzel and her team have expanded their work across the state.
“CPRIT featured TTTF in its 2021 Annual Report because this comprehensive, evidence-based program is working across Texas to address many of these tobacco-related health disparities through multiple grant awards since 2010.” CPRIT’s Chief Prevention Office Ramona Magid said.
To date, TTTF’s tobacco cessation resources have helped 22 mental health authorities which have hundreds of clinics, 18 substance use treatment centers and nine community agencies across the state to provide care for Tobacco Use Disorder among its clientele and employees, according to CPRIT’s 2021 Annual Report.
The mission to reduce smoking rates has been met with remarkable success through TTTF’s work. Since Texas’ annual rate of tobacco-related mortality is higher than the national average, effective prevention programs like TTTF have been essential.
Although smoking rates have declined in the U.S., it is still estimated that more than 480,000 Americans die from first-and-second-hand cigarette smoke each year. The smoking rates are elevated within certain segments of the population that TTTF is targeting, including individuals with mental health issues, substance use disorders, and/or who are vulnerably- housed or experiencing homelessness.
“I am so honored to have our team’s work highlighted in the CPRIT annual report,” Dr. Reitzel said. “CPRIT’s support of the Taking Texas Tobacco Free initiative has allowed us to work in partnership with so many community agencies to reduce the research-to-practice translational gap and bring evidence-based tobacco control policies and intervention directly to Texans in the places they already receive care, cutting down barriers to becoming tobacco-free.”
Through TTTF’s work, approximately 14,071 professionals in Texas have been educated about smoking cessation through training, health fairs and collaboration with centers and local agencies who wish to adopt tobacco-free workplace programs.
“It has been exciting to watch our program improve and expand since 2013 to better reach a range of community stakeholders for cancer prevention, and we deeply appreciate CPRIT’s funding that enabled that growth,” Dr. Reitzel said. “We look forward to our continuing Taking Texas Tobacco Free work and its further extending its impact into rural and medically underserved areas of the state.”
For many Texans who are striving to quit tobacco, the TTTF program has presented an invaluable opportunity to stop smoking for good. As a Gulf Coast Center employee mentioned in her testimonial which she offered on the condition of anonymity, the stress of smoking had become too much. Significant factors involved in her motivation to quit included the cost of cigarettes, inconvenience of going out to smoke, embarrassment of smoking, concern over health especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The training has changed my life...There was one section I remember vividly. What I heard him say is that smoking causes more stress. After I had completed the training, I sat and thought about what he said, and it made so much sense. After my experience with smoking, I realized how stressful it had become for me to smoke."
Dedicated to state-of-the-art cancer research, CPRIT is guided by a three-part mission—to invest in the research prowess of Texas institutions, create and expand the state's life science ecosystem and help expedite innovation which enhances breakthroughs in research, prevention, and cures.
“Addressing tobacco use is critical to cancer prevention in Texas—we know that 30–40% of cancers diagnosed in the US may have a link to tobacco use—the leading preventable cause of cancer and cancer deaths,” Magid said. “While overall smoking rates have decreased, this has not been true for individuals with behavioral health concerns, those who reside in rural communities and people of low socioeconomic status—all priority populations for the CPRIT Prevention program.”
Through the funding of 67 Core Facility grants at 22 Texas institutions, CPRIT’s overriding goals include building state-of-the-art facilities, acquiring cutting-edge equipment, and recruiting leading experts.
“The successful implementation and sustainment of TTTF programs serving these vulnerable populations will lead to increased tobacco quit rates, decreases in tobacco smoke exposure, and ultimately reduce the incidence of tobacco-related cancers among Texans, fulfilling CPRIT’s mission,” Magid said.
By Alison Medley