$2.1M pumped into Pee Dee anti-tobacco initiative

Florence, SC - FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - A program geared at educating one Pee Dee community about the dangers of tobacco use is receiving a multi-million dollar grant Wednesday to help support its efforts.

Nearly $2.1 million was awarded to Circle Park Behavioral Health Services through a "Communities Putting Prevention to Work" grant. The lump sum, according to officials, will be utilized over the next two years in Florence County.

Mary Kathryn Craft with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said the Pee Dee and Grand Strand regions were specifically targeted for their rich histories of tobacco growth and production.

"That was one of the factors brought into this award," Craft said. "Everyone knows now the dangers of tobacco use, but it's important to get that message out in the tobacco country."

The funds will be administered to not only help educate about the dangers of tobacco use and secondhand smoke, but help community agencies, organizations and school districts implement smoke-free and tobacco-free policies.

As a part of the grant, nicotine replacement therapy will also be available to Florence County residents who enroll in South Carolina Tobacco Quitline services. Craft said they'll also work to keep kids from ever lighting up in the first place.

"First of all, it's a huge investment money wise, but it also damages your health," Jennifer Leach, of Smoke Free Florence, said. "[It] will help them make the easier decision [and] the correct decision."

Leach said one of their biggest priorities will be to educate people on the dangers of secondhand smoke. She added while people are familiar with the dangers of smoking, many don't understand secondhand smoke can be just as deadly.

"I think ready is the key, but I think the main thing we're focusing on right now is the secondhand smoke and the dangers of [it] in our community," Leach commented.

Officials said Horry County is also expected to receive a similar tobacco prevention grant.

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