By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis – St. Louis County has received $7.6 million in federal stimulus money to battle tobacco use across the region.
The grant is one of 44 awarded Friday to cities and counties across the nation. St. Louis County is the only Missouri municipality to get the funds.
Missouri has one of the highest rates of adult smoking in the country, said state health director Margaret Donnelly. Prevention can help reduce the high economic cost to the state.
"Over $2 billion is spent annually in Missouri to treat smoking-related illnesses. And Medicaid alone spends more than $500 million every year treating tobacco-related illnesses," she said.
County officials have 30 days to outline a specific plan for the grant. Douglas Luke, the director of Washington University's Center for Tobacco Policy Research, said it should help publicize the state's tobacco quit line.
"A lot of people don't know that number, and just getting that information out there will help," he said. "When someone says I'm tired of smoking, I'm convinced I need to quit, where can I go for help, if they know that number, they're much more likely to call it and get hooked into an evidence-based cessation program."
The quit line in Missouri is 1-800-784-8669