Making a Firm Decision to Quit Smoking: Chatham County Commissioner Mike Cross shares his story about tobacco cessation

By Jennifer Park, Health Promotion Coordinator

Chatham County Commissioner Mike Cross started his journey with tobacco as a teenager because he wanted to try something new. However, after smoking for most of his life, he decided “enough was enough.” His firm decision to quit, rather than just “trying to quit,” has helped him stay smoke-free.

With the new tobacco-free Chatham County grounds policy going into effect March 1, 2016, Cross said that he did not want to ask employees to stop using tobacco while on county grounds if he, was a smoker too. The updated policy will prohibit the use of any tobacco product on county grounds, including county parks. The policy applies to, cigarettes, cigars, all forms of smokeless tobacco (e.g. dip), and other tobacco devices, such as electronic cigarettes and other vapor products.

“I’ve told myself I cannot do this anymore,” Cross said. “From a health and even a social viewpoint, I know I will be better off not smoking. I’ve always known better, I just haven’t done better.” Commissioner Cross encourages employees to stop tobacco use, but he recognizes it is a personal decision.

Making a firm decision to quit smoking, tobacco use or electronic cigarettes is difficult. Tobacco use is a physical, mental and emotional habit. Individuals may choose to use nicotine replacement therapy to help with the urges, or professional coaching to help change habits.

Commissioner Cross said that he’s found ways to help himself fight urges and change his habits. He might get busy cleaning his house or car. He also found it helpful to eat nutritious foods, avoid social situations where smoking is prevalent, and use nicotine replacement gum.

“You have to decide, ‘I quit!’ and stick with it,” Cross said, while consider the addictive quality of smoking. Smoking causes coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, decreased energy levels, poor circulation and poor sleeping habits. Cross said that he is looking forward to continued health improvements, feeling better, and not having the inconveniences that smoking brought to his life. With fewer places allowing tobacco use, smoking becomes an inconvenience and can mean missing out on social interactions when you have to go elsewhere to smoke.

“Take one day at a time,” Cross advised. He added that an effective strategy was giving himself small rewards for each day, week, and month that he was smoke free.  “Have a grape!” he joked, or anything to focus on small successes. Tobacco cessation is not easy, making a firm decision helps override the urge, Cross said, adding that while his cessation methods worked for him, everyone is different.

Cross’ advice to youth is that “nothing good will come to you from using tobacco. Reflect on your decisions that will impact you today and later in life.”

Tobacco cessation resources are available by contacting the North Carolina Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). Tobacco use is a relationship in your life, and only you can decide the power it has over you.


Free Tobacco Cessation Services offered through Quitline NC

Start off the New Year with a healthier you!  If your New Year’s resolution is to quit smoking or using tobacco, don’t miss this opportunity to receive free one-Quitline Logoon-one counseling and support from Quitline NC.

The Quitline offers four free sessions for those who are interested in quitting tobacco, including smokeless tobacco products and electronic cigarettes or other vaping products. These sessions can be conducted either through the phone, an online program, or through a text messaging service. Pregnant women are eligible for up to ten free sessions. Teens are also encouraged to contact the Quitline and will receive up to five free sessions. Many participants are also eligible for Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRTs) such as patches, lozenges, and gum at no charge.

To learn more about other free resources to help quit, please call 1-800 QUIT NOW or visit


HPV Vaccination is Cancer Prevention: January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

Cervical cancer affects an estimated 12,000 women each year. Sadly, about one-third of those women will die as a result of the cancer. Thanks to improvements Cervical Cancer Infographic (english)
in screening and vaccinations, cervical cancer is also a highly preventable and treatable cancer. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, dedicated to increasing awareness about the importance of early detection of cervical cancer and other gynecologic cancers, while also celebrating the lives of the many women who have survived, and remembering those who lost.

 HPV, or Human Papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States and is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer. The HPV virus is a virus passed to another person during skin-to-skin contact, including vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Almost all sexually active people will get HPV in their lifetime, though the majority of people will never know it. For some people the virus can cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus, mouth and throat (oropharyngeal cancer). There is no way to know if HPV will develop into cancer and it can take years, even decades, to develop. HPV can also cause genital warts in both males and females. HPV is easy to pass onto others because it is so common and people can have it without knowing it. The HPV vaccination protects both males and females against these diseases.

The HPV vaccination is a 3 part series given over 6 months to both boys and girls. The vaccination is recommended for all preteen boys and girls at age 11 or 12 years. The HPV vaccination offers the best protection to girls and boys who receive all three vaccine doses before they begin sexual activity with another person. Providing the vaccinations at this age gives the body time to develop an immune response so that when exposed, the body can effectively fight off the virus. Catch-up vaccines (for people who either did not finish their 3 part series or did not get the vaccination when they were younger) are recommended for males through age 21 and females through age 26.

The Chatham County Public Health Department has many services devoted to cervical cancer prevention and screening, including Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. Gardasil is free for those 18 years or younger who either have Medicaid, do not have insurance, or their insurance does not cover childhood immunizations. Adults 19-26 years old who do not have insurance or Medicaid can pay a flat fee of approximately $153 for each dose.

At least 50% of cervical cancer deaths are due to lack of screenings. When cervical cancer is discovered early, it is one of the most preventable cancers. The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated. The Pap test is recommended for women between the ages of 21 and 65, and can be done in a doctor’s office or a clinic.

The Chatham County Public Health Department offers free breast and cervical cancer screenings for eligible women through Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (Cervical Cancer Infographic (spanish)BCCCP). Low income women who are uninsured or underinsured between the ages 40-64 who do not have Medicaid, Medicare, or Title X services are eligible for a Pap test. Women under 40 years old are eligible if they meet the requirements and are experiencing symptoms. Women with Medicaid, Medicare, and health insurance can receive an annual mammogram and recommended Pap tests as part of their insurance plan. For more information on the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program, please visit or call the Chatham County Public Health Department at (919) 742-5641.

For additional cervical cancer resources, please visit

For additional HPV vaccination resources, please visit


Happy (almost) New Year!

The Chatham County Public Health Department would like to wish you all a happy (and safe) new year. 2015 was a year of progress and hard work for us, with many new initiatives taking shape. Here, we take a few moments to highlight some of these efforts, many of which will continue in the years to come.

  •  The Chatham Health Alliance kicked off earlier this year. With representation from dozens of agencies, organizations and residents Alliance Logo Croppedfrom across the county, the Alliance has gotten off to a fast start in its work to address Chatham’s health priorities. The Alliance’s potential to address these issues was recently recognized, as it received a grant from The Duke Endowment to sustain its work.
  • There has been a growing concern over well water quality, especially in areas where it may be affected by coal ash sites. The Environmental Health Division has worked hard to assess potential risks and share information with residents. More information can be found here.
  • Recognizing the growing threat of new forms of tobacco and in order to foster a healthy environment, the County Manager signed a policy prohibiting tobacco use, including electronic cigarettes, on county property. This includes the county parks system. The policy, which was developed by health promotion staff at the direction of the Chatham County Board of Health, will take effect March 1, 2016.
  • Animal Services has continued its important work toKelsey find homes for Chatham’s pets while protecting the health of both these pets and their human counterparts. In July, Chatham County Animal Services joined partners from across the country to rescue 190 animals. The partners then worked together to bring the animals back to health and find them forever homes.
  • Animal Services Director Leigh Anne Garrard will be taking a position with the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office in the new year. LA2While this is sad news for us, we are happy Leigh Anne will continue to be able to serve Chatham’s residents. Leigh Anne was recently recognized as Chatham County Employee of the Quarter and health department Supervisor of the Year. “Leigh Anne has been a tremendous asset to the Animal Services Division and to the Health Department during her tenure as the Animal Services Director. We wish her the all the best and look forward to seeing her in her new role,” Public Health Director Layton Long said in a statement.
  • The 2014 Chatham County Community Health Assessment, or CHA, was completed, submitted, and approved! The CHA identifies health priorities for the county, which have been used to guide efforts of the Chatham Health Alliance. See the CHA here.
  • Our clinic team worked hard to make healthcare accessible to Chatham residents. In addition to the numerous services offered at the clinic in Siler City, the preventive health team implemented a campaign to get flu vaccines to homebound residents.

Happy new year and please remember to stay safe as you celebrate!


Time for Radon Testing

As the turning of the seasons brings colder weather to North Carolina, and families close windows to keep warm, it is an excellent time to make plans for radon testing in your home.

Radon is the odorless, colorless gas that is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. The effects on the families it touches can be just as devastating as lung cancer caused by smoking tobacco.

January is National Radon Action Month.  Each year, upwards of 22,000 people die from radon-induced lung cancer. Roughly 54 percent of those diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer are expected to live no more than five years after diagnosis.

The Chatham County Public Health Department and Chatham County Cooperative Extension are partnering with the NC Radon program to provide free short-term radon test kits in recognition of National Radon Action Month.  A limited supply of radon test kits are being made available locally on January 7, 2016 from 8:00AM-5:00PM at three locations: Cooperative Extension Office in Pittsboro-65 East Chatham Street and 80 East Street as well as in Siler City at the Health Department site at 1000 South 10th Avenue. Approximately 15,000 kits are being distributed statewide. Only one kit per home is needed to determine if your home has a high level.  The North Carolina Radon Program website,, will have a list of all 110 participating organizations across North Carolina. The NC Radon Program website will also have a limited supply of kits available. Once the supply of free kits has been exhausted, the NC Radon Program website will return to providing short-term radon test kits at a reduced cost of $6.00, a kit that retails for $15.00.

The North Carolina Radon Program of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services educates families and homeowners about radon gas, how to test for radon gas and how to lower the radon levels within a home.  Lowering the radon levels in a home lowers the risk of lung cancer. Phillip Gibson, NC Radon Coordinator, will be presenting information about the effects, testing, and lowering levels of radon in the home on January 26, 2016 at 6:30 PM in the Agricultural Auditorium in Pittsboro (65 East Chatham St.). 

The North Carolina Radon Program website also contains a new mobile app.  Meant to particularly help real estate brokers working in North Carolina, the mobile app will assist the user in determining how many tests have been conducted within a zip code as well as the highest radon level recorded in that zip code.  The user of the app will also be able to locate a certified professional to assist them in testing or fixing the radon issue in their home.

The cost of lowering radon levels in a home averages about $1,500. The North Carolina Radon Protection Section sought help for families that might struggle to meet that expense. The Self Help Credit Union stepped up and created a loan program specifically for radon mitigation.  North Carolina homeowners who meet federal poverty criteria may be eligible for forgivable loans from local programs.  A link to more information is available on the NC Radon Program web page.

Lung cancer can strike anyone, even a nonsmoker.  Test your home for radon and lower your family’s risk of lung cancer. For more information, visit