2-time cancer survivor runs first 5K with Heart Association

Kelley Pike

On May 16, Kelley Pike ran 5 kilometers for the first time in her life.

“I tried not to cry when I finished that,” Pike, who has participated in the Healthy For Good 5K Training that is part of the 2019 Capital Region Heart Walk and Run, said.

When Pike started the training program in March, she was having trouble getting out of bed. Pike had faced a lot of obstacles. Ten years ago, when she was 35, she had had breast cancer, requiring a mastectomy and reconstruction.

In May of 2018, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer and had surgery on June 6. Last September, an ear infection developed into mastoiditis, which led to a blood clot in her head. She had a PIC line that was taken out before Thanksgiving.

A few weeks after starting the Healthy For Good 5K Training Program, a scan showed that everything was ok in Pike’s brain.

Pike, who handles grants and contracts at Albany Med’s research office, had tried to do a “Couch to 5K” on her own in the past.

“I’d go too fast and get discouraged when I did it on my own,” Pike said. “The group was so supportive, and the mentors in the training program were so great. They would tell me to do what I had to do. If I couldn’t talk, they’d say I was going too fast, and to slow it down. I had been in a bad place, and knew I had to do something. This program let me walk the walk, and now I can’t wait to run the 5K on June 2.”


Retired library director, chief of cardiology part of 5K training program

Gail, left, and Dr. Joe Sacco before one of the training sessions for the American Heart Association’s Healthy For Good 5K Training program.

Everyone in the Healthy For Good 5K Training Program had their own reason for wanting to run the 5K in the Sunday, June 2, Capital Region Heart Walk and Run. Spouses Gail and Dr. Joe Sacco shared their thoughts about being part of the group.

“I’ve always been active, but never considered myself athletic,” Gail Sacco, 65, retired director of the Voorheesville Public Library, a breast cancer survivor and Type 1 diabetic, said. “I was curious about running, but wasn’t sure I could. I am getting older but I don’t want to be ‘old.’ I want to walk straight and tall, have flexibility and balance, and feel well. Exercise is the magic bullet for that result. I was inspired by my friend who did her first 5k last year so I thought I would try this run. I have a strong commitment to the American Heart Association and this training program has been the best!”

“I’d been away from regular exercise during the last year and was looking for a routine to get back into shape,” Dr. Sacco said. He is chief of cardiology at the Albany Stratton VA hospital, professor at Albany Med, and former president and longtime member of the Capital Region Advisory Board of the American Heart Association. “Gail heard about the Heart Association’s Healthy For Good 5K program, and it sounded like a great way to get back into a routine–even with the daunting challenge of starting a true ‘couch to 5K’ running program at my age. I knew Gail would keep me honest and motivated to stick with the training. Since I’ve been active with the Heart Association for many years, using the training program to fundraise also seemed like another way to add both fun and extra motivation to complete the program. My goal is not to be fast, but be able to actually run the whole 5K.”

“When I started, I could hardly run for 3 minutes,” Gail Sacco said. “Now I can now run 3 miles and my goal is to run the entire 5k on June 2.”

Both Saccos had high praise for the coaches and mentors of the 5K program. Toni Howard, department chair of education at Hudson Valley Community College, and Rosella Elliott, a stroke survivor, gathered a team of 15 mentors to train the 30 participants in the “Healthy For Good 5K Training Program.

“The support of the volunteer coaches and mentors have made this training program the best,” Gail Sacco said.

“Training together with the coaches, mentors and other runners has been a great way to share the experience, learn good running technique, and help cheer each other on,” Joe Sacco said. “It’s remarkable how far we’ve come since those first exhausting–SHORT–and COLD days in the program and we are both looking forward to the big day. I look forward to saying I did it!

There’s still time to be part of the Heart Walk and Run on Sunday! Visit CapitalRegionHeartWalk.org to see how.


Meet Our Stroke Ambassador

Monica Roach

On April 21st, 2017, the sun rose, the coffee was brewed, and the shower was finished.

It was a day like any other. As I stepped out of the shower and wiped the steam from the bathroom mirror, I noticed my left thumb felt numb and I felt a bit woozy. So I went to lie down on the bed and realized something was really wrong.

I stood up to get the phone to call 911 and immediately fell to the floor, unable to get back up. I called out to my 14-year-old son, Avery, and told him to call 911 because I thought I was having a stroke. He was amazingly calm, and I overheard him telling the 911 operator that his mom was having a stroke and that they needed to get here as fast as possible. He also offered to stand on the front lawn to make it easier for them to find us. Then he asked what I needed him to do for me. I told him to ask his little sister Peyton to call their dad and to help me put on the dress on the bed since I suddenly remembered I was stark naked and still wet from the shower.

Our neighbor, a volunteer firefighter, came over to see if he could help when he heard the call come over his radio. That’s when I became acutely aware of how messy my bedroom was.

The paramedics came very quickly and loaded me carefully into the ambulance. I looked out of the rear door, saw my husband pull up in his car and knew my kids would be looked after. Then I let myself drift off to sleep.

Some of the initial time I spent in the hospital was a blur as I was in and out of consciousness.

I’d had a hemorrhagic stroke.

Luckily, I received excellent care right away. I was in the Albany Med Stroke Unit for a few days and then I was moved up to the rehab floor for daily physical therapy and occupational therapy. Just as I was starting to make progress, a monkey wrench was thrown into the works. I discovered a painful warm spot on my calf.

My nurse tried to keep me calm so as not make me worry. He informed my doctor and I was sent for a Doppler ultrasound. When I got back upstairs, I passed out in the bathroom. The next thing I knew, it was dark outside, and I was surrounded by doctors I hadn’t met before. They explained that I had a pulmonary embolism and needed to have surgery as soon as possible.

Luckily, the surgery was a success.

So after a stay in ICU and a few days on a closely monitored floor, back to rehab I went.

Two months after my stroke, I was discharged and was able to go home to my family. I

continued with my therapies and slowly got back to my life.

My life is not the same. It is different, but it is my life and I’m thankful to still be here. I have made adjustments. I walk with a brace and a cane, but I walk on my own volition. I cannot play my cello in concert at this point due to my left side weakness, but I am back teaching string instrument lessons, I just do it differently.

I conducted my two cello choirs this summer and I’ve become the new conductor of an

educational outreach youth orchestra.

My life is far from over though it is different.

There can be a fulfilling life after stroke. My name is Monica Wilson-Roach and by the grace of God, I am living proof.


Business Review, MicroKnowledge/ProKnowledge Leaders to Chair 2019 Go Red for Women Luncheon

Cindy Applebaum

Kathleen Pingelski

Kathleen Pingelski, president of MicroKnowledge and ProKnowledge, is the same age her father was when he had his first heart attack.

Cindy Applebaum, market president and publisher of The Albany Business Review, lost her best friend at the age of 39 to a heart attack.

These are the two main reasons that both women are chairing the 2019 Go Red for Women campaign, which culminates in the 15th annual Go Red for Women Luncheon on Thursday, May 16, at the Albany Capital Center, 55 Eagle St., Albany, on May 16, from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The day features health screenings, an exclusive breakout session with past leaders of Go Red, the introduction of the 2019 BetterU class, the famous “Purse-Onality” auction, presentation of the Crystal Heart Award, a heart-healthy lunch and a moving survivor story.

Pingelski has been involved with the American Heart Association since she was a participant in the first BetterU class in 2011. She has been a member of the Circle of Red (a giving society), and part of the Capital Region Heart Walk and Run. She has served as a volunteer spokeswoman on a regular basis.

“I’m excited about this leadership role,” Pingelski said. “It’s an opportunity to dig in and make a real difference. Go Red is an opportunity for women – who are always on the go – to stop and take care of themselves. It’s a significant awareness movement, that encourages to know our numbers and be proactive, rather than reactive. And building a community based on that. As women, we often think just about the weight, but it’s more than that. It’s exercise and eating healthy, not just one and done, but forever.”

Applebaum thought of her friend Patty Hart when Pingelski asked her to co-chair the Go Red for Women movement.

“She was one of the most influential people in my life,” Applebaum said of her friend who passed away at 39. “Chairing this event lets me honor her, and most importantly, gets the message out that age is not a factor when it comes to heart disease.”

Applebaum, who grew up in North Albany, is glad to be giving back to her hometown community.

“This community has been very good to me, and I want to give back while also getting out a message that is so important,” Applebaum said.

Applebaum was diagnosed with multiple myeloma five years ago.

“I have an uncurable cancer, but I can get the message out that cancer doesn’t equal death,” Applebaum said. “I can manage through the cancer and the chemo, but if my heart stops, I can’t manage anything. You can’t avoid the diagnosis, but if you are practicing things are good lifestyle habits, you can move through a bad diagnosis.”

Applebaum is an avid tennis player, and works out daily with a personal trainer. She also incorporates small bursts of activity into her day – parking far from her destination, getting up every hour to stretch, walking around the Business Review office.

Pingelski, 50, grew up in Ulster County, received an associate’s degree from Ulster County Community College and a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Oneonta in elementary education. But an entrepreneurial flair led her to her current work. She joined MicroKnowledge in 1994 and has owned 50% of it since 2005. She started ProKnowledge in 2015.  Pingelski was a Woman of Excellence, A Woman Who Means Business, one of the Times Union’s 10 Women to Watch, and MicroKnowledge has been named one of the area’s Best Places to Work. She is active with WERC (Women’s Employment and Resource Center), has been on the executive committee of the Tour De Cure, and is still active with Circles of Mercy, where she has served on the board. She and her husband Robert live in Clifton Park, and have three children, Emily, 19; Brendan, 18; and Sean, 15.

Applebaum, 64, is a graduate of St. Joseph’s Academy.

“I fell into sales in my 20s,” Applebaum said, “and became passionate about it. I like representing a company and its product, and helping individuals in companies find solutions to their problems. I’ve always believed strongly in giving my employer more than they ask for.”

Applebaum was the area manager for Nextel for Albany, Syracuse and Vermont before becoming the general manager for the media group at Time Warner Cable, where she worked for 11 years. She has been the market president and publisher at The Albany Business Review for two and a half years. Applebaum serves on the board of the Center for Economic Growth and the New York Press Association. A widow, she has two children, Zak, 26, and Jordyn, 25.

Since taking on the role of co-chair of Go Red for Women, Applebaum has worn something red every day – even if it’s just her manicure – as a reminder of the importance of the mission.

“The message of Go Red is to be in tune with your needs and take ownership of your long-term health,” Applebaum said. “Do the thing that gives you the probability of avoiding bad things.”

“The Go Red for Women Luncheon is It’s a great celebration of women coming together for heart-health awareness,” Pingelski said. “The BetterU is a great celebration There’s typically an educational component, too. You don’t want to not be there.”






Tobacco 21 was part of the State of the State

 In today’s State of the State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signaled an important step in the campaign to protect New York’s youth from the dangers of smoking and e-cigarette use.

By raising the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, New York State can change the narrative pushed on youth by Big Tobacco.

“Electronic cigarette use among youth doubled between 2014 and 2016, from 10.5% to 20.6%, and is continuing to rise. This means every day, more kids are increasing their risk for heart disease and stroke,” said Caitlin O’Brien, New York State Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association. “We have long known that if people don’t use tobacco products by the time they are 21, their chances of doing so drop to only 2 percent.  Gov. Cuomo’s recognition of the public health benefits associated with Tobacco 21 couldn’t come at a better time.”

“Youth need to realize that while flavored like their favorite candy, these products actually contain the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes,” O’Brien said. “Sweeping tobacco reforms are imperative to preventing deadly addiction and the numerous diseases and disabilities associated with its use.”

The American Heart Association also hopes that that the 2019 Legislative Session brings initiatives to improve access to healthy foods and nutrition, and physical activity in schools.

“We are glad to see that Gov. Cuomo plans to prioritize education for this coming year. The academic performance and physical wellness of children go hand in hand, so focusing on strengthening school wellness policies in New York makes sense,” O’Brien said.

Heart disease and stroke are the No. 1 and No. 5 killers of all Americans. The American Heart Association’s mission is to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.






Seeking 12 women to improve their heart health

Jenniffer Snyder Wright remembers watching the 2016 BetterU class at that year’s Go Red for Women Luncheon, and telling her employer, Andrea Crisafulli, who had invited her to the Luncheon, that she needed to be part of the American Heart Association’s 12-week heart-health improvement program for women.


On Thursday, January 3, at CAP COM FEDERAL Credit Union in Albany,  Wright shared her story of being in the 2017 BetterU class. As she participated in the program, her headaches went away, and swelling in her body decreased. She also gave up what she described as a “nasty daily Frappuccino habit” as part of her wellness journey. She has also become the coordinator for the newly formed BetterU alumnae group.

Wright is sharing her story as the application period for the 2019 BetterU class opens. Last year, 137 women applied. 13 were chosen. This year’s deadline to apply is January 24.

Today, Amelia Waters of the Capital District YMCA staff led exercises – demonstrated by a 2018 BetterU grad – and BetterU co-chair Maria Decker of Maria’s Catering provided healthy snacks. Ellie Wilson, senior dietitian for Price Chopper/Market 32, offered nutrition advice, and Dr. Mandeep Sidhu, cardiologist at Albany Med and immediate past president of the Capital Region Advisory Board of the American Heart Association, talked about how important it is for women to take care of their health.

When the 12-week program begins in late February, BetterU participants receive memberships to the Capital District YMCA, learn about nutrition and food shopping from Wilson, a senior dietitian at Price Chopper, work with a personal trainer and meet weekly for group workouts and support. They celebrate their success with hundreds of attendees at the Go Red for Women Luncheon.

“We are excited to continue our partnership with the American Heart Association and help launch the 2019 BetterU program,” said CAP COM President and CEO Paula Stopera. “BetterU offers the tools for individuals to create not only healthy lifestyle changes, but friendships and confidence to start feeling their best. The longevity of the American Heart Association’s impact is so important, and one of the reasons why CAP COM feels so strongly about getting behind their mission.”

“Core to our mission at the Y is helping individuals achieve greater health and wellness,” said Capital District YMCA President David Brown. “We’re delighted to support the efforts of our partners at the American Heart Association as we work together to transform lives through the BetterU program.”

“Women handle so much that it’s easy to lose track of your health,” said Theresa Petrone Butts, chair of the Capital Region Advisory Board of the American Heart Association, and co-chair of the BetterU subcommittee of the Go Red For Women Luncheon. “As a recent new mom, I’m seeing from a whole new perspective how we put others first, and how limited time to take care of ourselves can be. The BetterU helps health become a priority.”

“For nine years, we’ve watched a group of BetterU women improve their heart health. It is always inspiring and motivating, and I can’t wait to meet this year’s class,” said Maria Decker of Maria’s Catering, member of the Capital Region Advisory Board and co-chair of the BetterU subcommittee of the Go Red For Women Luncheon.

“It’s great to kick off the new year by making health improvements possible for a group of women,” said Dr. Mandeep Sidhu, cardiologist, dean of student research and scholarship at Albany Med, and immediate past president and member of the Capital Region Advisory Board of the American Heart Association. “It’s up to all of us to support our mothers, sisters, friends, who are disproportionately affected by heart disease and stroke.”

“I was part of the first BetterU class,” said Kathleen Pingelski, owner of MicroKnowledge and president of ProKnowledge, and co-chair of the 2019 Go Red For Women Luncheon. “It was a powerful experience and reminded me how critical taking care of our health is. I’m thrilled to be welcoming the ninth class, and am looking forward to a great year of Go Red.”

“Since the Go Red For Women movement was founded 15 years ago, we have saved a lot of lives,” said Cindy Applebaum, market president and publisher of the Albany Business Review, and co-chair of the 2019 Go Red For Women movement. “But heart disease remains the No. 1 killer of women, and stroke is No. 5. Programs like the BetterU are helping to change that statistic. I am looking forward to meeting the women of the 2019 BetterU class.”

Neil and Jane Golub have been leaders in supporting heart health education and care for women in the Capital Region. I have the privilege of echoing that commitment by ensuring BetterU participants can implement the American Heart Association nutrition and lifestyle principles in their own lives,” said Ellie Wilson, senior dietitian at Price Chopper and Market 32. “I love sharing nutrition education and shopping strategies with participants, putting appetite and health together, and ensuring participants understand the resources and benefits available at Price Chopper Pharmacies. I am looking forward to a great program.”

Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy also spoke.

Applications for the BetterU are available at CapitalRegionNYGoRedLuncheon.heart.org, and at locations of the Capital District YMCA.



MVP Leader, Albany Med Cardiothoracic Surgeon Lead Board

Adanna Akujuo, M.D.

Theresa Petrone Butts

 Theresa Petrone Butts, Leader of IT Vendor and Budget Management at MVP Health Care, and Adanna Akujuo, M.D., cardiothoracic surgeon and associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Albany Med, are leading the Capital Region Advisory Board for the next two years.

Petrone Butts, who first joined the board in 2012, will be the chair of the board. Dr. Akujuo, who has been on the board for two years, will be its president. They will guide the board and consult with the staff as the American Heart Association implements its mission to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.

Petrone Butts has been involved in many aspects of the American Heart Association. She supported the youth market division and created, with past board member Scott Momrow, a fundraising event geared toward young professionals called Heart 2 Heart. For the past five years, she has been part of the Go Red for Women committee, co-chairing its annual luncheon in 2017 with Leah Slocum of Peak Residential Partners Team at Williams Kellert. Passionate about health and fitness, Petrone Butts, along with Maria Decker, leads the women’s 12-week heart-health improvement program, BetterU, that is part of the Go Red for Women movement.

Dr. Akujuo has represented the American Heart Association in the media, spoken at events and invited participants to experience her world in Albany Med’s donation of “Be a Med Student for A Day” at the Heart Ball.

“The field has changed so much,” Dr. Akujuo said of her work. “How I evaluate patients is different from what it was six years ago. We can help a lot of people today who couldn’t be helped in the past. The mission of the American Heart Association is near and dear to my heart. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer but is 80 percent treatable. It’s important to get the message of prevention out there, and it’s important that we keep fundraising, so we can advance the treatment for the other 80 percent.”

“The thing about the American Heart Association, whether people realize it or not, is that the mission and work touches people’s lives in so many ways,” Petrone Butts said. “We help people who have suffered a heart attack or stroke; we talk about what you should be feeding yourself or your family; we talk about how to save lives with CPR. This is a critical mission to get behind and support.”

Raising awareness and educating people are top priorities for Petrone Butts and Dr. Akujuo.

“As the No. 1 killer of women, heart disease doesn’t get the attention it should,” Petrone Butts said. “We want to really paint the Capital Region red with the Go Red for Women movement, to raise awareness of women and heart disease, have women pay attention to the numbers of things like blood pressure and cholesterol and what that means for our health.”

“I have a duty as a health care provider to make an impact, and I would like to take the mission of the American Heart Association to places where people are perhaps unaware of it,” Dr. Akujuo said. “I’d like to see growth among people who are aware of the Heart Association – for instance, I’d like to make the Heart Walk big.”

“We are fortunate to have these two leaders advancing our mission, and our work,” said Jeanne Walsh, executive director of the American Heart Association in the Capital Region. “Theresa is entrenched in, and has a lot of knowledge about, the American Heart Association. She’s very organized and thoughtful, and will be a leader who can help others. Dr. Akujuo understands how heart disease and stroke affect patients, their families and caregivers. She will help us create the ‘why’ of what we do. Together, these two women will balance what our organization needs to do to be strategic and successful in our market.”

Petrone Butts grew up in Rhinebeck, is a University at Albany graduate, lives in Rexford with her husband and stepson and expects an addition to the family this fall. Petrone Butts has also been active in support of Huntington’s Disease; part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Blondes vs. Brunettes touch football game; involved with the Capital Area Young Professionals; and was named a “40 Under 40” by the Albany Business Review in 2012. She has run two full marathons, and many half-marathons, some in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training and the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. She and her husband also are general manager and head coach, respectively, and owners of the New York Knockout Women’s Tackle Football Team, the area’s first all-female tackle football team.

Dr. Akujuo is from Nigeria. She studied at York College, part of the City University of New York, graduated from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, completed her residency at St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center in New York City and a fellowship at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.  She lives in Albany. She leads a charity called Voom, which provides heart care and surgery in Nigeria. She travels there twice a year to perform cardiac surgery.

Petrone Butts and Dr. Akujuo are joined on the board by:

  • Kaweeda Adams, Albany City School District
  • Jack Bevilacqua, Albany County International Airport Fire Department
  • Alan Boulos, M.D., Albany Med
  • Jennifer Corcoran Conway, Tully Rinckey
  • Andrew Dahlen, Beech-Nut
  • Maria Decker, Maria’s Catering and 84 Ferry, Troy
  • Kate Fruscione, CAP COM Federal Credit Union
  • Bill Galvin, PharMEDium
  • Kathy Lanni, SEFCU
  • Kristin Meehan, KeyBank
  • Glenn Rockwood, Optimum Fulfillment
  • Mandeep Sidhu, M.D., Albany Med
  • Brandon Stabler, Columbia Development
  • Dorothy Urschel, St. Peter’s Health Partners
  • Lisa Wolcott, Capital District YMCA

Essex County passes Tobacco 21

Today, Sept. 4, the Essex County Board of Supervisors took an important step in protecting the youth of the county by raising the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products to 21. This is the first county in the North Country to pass the measure.

The American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society applauded the board’s action.

Bob Elling, paramedic, resident of Essex County and member of the American Heart Association’s New York State Advocacy Committee, attended the meeting, and has been a staunch advocate of Tobacco 21.

“We know that the use of e-cigarettes – especially JUUL’s – has increased dramatically in all of New York state, and I am glad that the board of supervisors saw the importance of keeping all tobacco products out of the hands of our youth,” Elling said. “An Institute of Medicine report shows that by increasing the sales age of tobacco products to 21, there will be a 12 percent reduction in the smoking rate. Smoking is a leading risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and many other chronic diseases. Keeping tobacco products away from our youth sets them up for longer, healthier lives.”

“Tobacco 21 just makes sense. It can improve health and help combat the huge health costs of smoking,” said Julie Hart, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network New York Government Relations Director. “We are thrilled Essex County is leading the way in the North Country by putting health before special interest groups.”

With Essex County’s passage of Tobacco 21, there are now 23 local jurisdictions in the state that have passed the measure.




Essex County residents, a letter for your legislator

On Tuesday, Sept. 4, at 10 a.m., the Essex County Board of Supervisors will vote on Tobacco 21, a measure that would raise the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products to 21. If you live in Essex County, would you contact your legislator and ask them to pass this measure? We’ve provided a letter you can adapt, as well as a link that will give you contact info to YOUR supervisor. Tobacco 21 will protect our youth from the ravages of smoking!

Here’s the link – 


Here’s the letter – 

Dear Town Supervisor,

As a resident of Essex County, and your constituent, I am very pleased to see that the Board of Supervisors is considering Tobacco 21. This common-sense legislation will protect the health of our young adults by raising the legal sales age of tobacco products to 21.

With all the misinformation out there about electronic cigarettes and, specifically, JUUL’s, it’s important to remember that science is on our side. An Institute of Medicine report shows that by increasing the sales age of tobacco products to 21, there will be a 12% reduction in the smoking rate. This means future generations have the potential to be smoke free. With tobacco use remaining the leading preventable cause of heart disease and stroke, the nation’s number one and number five causes of mortality, any measure that can help tobacco addiction is critical.

By passing this law once and for all, we are keeping youth from ever picking up their first tobacco product and we are eliminating the main source of tobacco products for this age group, their friends. After all, a sixteen-year-old is far more likely to know an eighteen-year-old than a twenty-one-year-old.  And, if a person makes it to 21 without ever smoking, the chances of them ever doing so drops to only 2%. This is extremely important given that 95% of smokers report starting before they turned 21.

With 19 municipalities in New York, Albany, Onondaga and Cortland Counties, having passed Tobacco 21, I am eager to see the same health protection extended to our residents.

With over $10 Billion dollars spent annually on health expenditures from tobacco related diseases, this legislation saves lives and money. Please support Tobacco 21 at the upcoming vote on Tuesday, September 4th.

Thank you!



Essex County could be the next to pass Tobacco 21

The American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association are urging the Essex County Board of Supervisors to be the next county in New York to pass Tobacco 21, which would raise the minimum legal sales age to 21, thus protecting the North Country’s youth from the extreme dangers of smoking.

The Board of Supervisors will vote on Tobacco 21 during their 10 a.m. meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 4.

Smoking is a leading risk factor for heart disease, cancer, lung disease and a host of other chronic illnesses,” said Bob Elling, Lake Placid resident, member of the New York state Advocacy Committee for the American Heart Association, a paramedic and paramedic instructor. “As a paramedic, I’ve seen the harm tobacco products cause. I urge the Essex County Board of Supervisors to pass this important measure now to prevent health damages – and high costs – later.”

“Tobacco 21 just makes sense.  It is a win-win for our health and our pocketbooks.  By voting yes, the Essex County Board of Supervisors can help prevent kids from ever picking up their first cigarette. The longer we can delay initiation of tobacco use, the less likely it is that our youth will begin smoking,” said Julie Hart, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, New York government relations director.  “Given tobacco-related health care costs New Yorkers $10.4 billion each year, with state and local Medicaid costs totaling $3.3 billion, tobacco 21 also makes financial sense.”

“Today, 28.8% of high school students in New York State use tobacco products – and close to 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette before the age of 21,” said Kristina Wieneke, Director of Public Policy for the American Lung Association in New York.  “New Yorkers across the state have proven they are ready to raise the age of sale and protect our young people from beginning a dangerous addiction.  If Essex County joins the movement, more than 75% of New York residents would be covered by local Tobacco 21 laws, and it would send a clear message to Albany that it’s time for a statewide law to protect all New York youths.”

Twenty-three localities have already passed Tobacco 21. This is the second time that the Essex County Board of Supervisors has considered the measure.