N.C. Firefighters Urged to 'Put it Out'

"Put it Out" had a different meaning for firefighters in 10 North Carolina fire departments recently.

The effort involved a major smoking cessation campaign by the National Volunteer Fire Council and Pfizer Inc., a research-based pharmaceutical company.

Jeff Cash, chief of the Cherryville Fire Department, said he felt it was perfect to launch such a project in the tobacco state.

Cash, who acted as liaison, said he chose 10 departments from various areas of the state. Volunteer, career and combination were involved. "Five were part of the control group, while the others were part of another."

Heather Schafer, NVFC executive director, said results aren't in just yet. However, she's been hearing that a number of participants have kicked the habit.

"We are close to launching an interactive Web site to address the issue," she said. "People will be able to download information and resources to help them stop smoking."

The effort involves more than tips about kicking the habit.

"It includes resources about nutrition and exercises," Schafer said, adding that in some areas local YMCAs agreed to participate by offering deals to personnel.

Cash said people understand the importance of switching to a healthier lifestyle. "Smoking speeds up the possibility of heart disease and other things".

Schafer said the North Carolina State Firemen's Association embraced the program, believing it would improve the health of personnel.

Cash added the chiefs and firefighters were very excited to get involved in this campaign.

"For years and years and years, tobacco was our cash crop."

He added: "This was a good collaborative effort between Pfizer, the NVFC, the departments and the state association. We were lucky to take advantage of it."

Cash said it fits in perfectly with the NVFC's Heart-Healthy Firefighter initiative.