%825%left%While it's difficult enough for one person to quit smoking, reducing smoking rates in large population groups can be daunting. But it's not impossible.
Just ask Dorean Corson Maines '67, who not only quit smoking in 1993 after 27 years but also contributes to the impressive reduction of smoking rates and the increase of smoke-free air in the state of Maine.
As a health planner for Maine's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, Maines coordinates projects aimed at reducing tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke in the state. Among the program's successes is a drop of more than 60 percent in youth smoking since 1997, when Maine had one of the highest youth smoking rates in the country. Furthermore, the American Lung Association announced in January that "Maine leads the nation in tobacco control," receiving a perfect score on the association's report card.
%826%right%Agencies statewide received accolades for these accomplishments. Maines deserves some, too, for her important role in this success story. Using surveys and research, she gathers, synthesizes, and summarizes data on smoking rates and smoking-related illnesses. Her research and written testimony has persuaded state lawmakers to pass bills such as creating tobacco-free environments and increasing the cigarette tax.
"It's exciting work," Maines said from her fourth-floor office in downtown Augusta. "This morning my boss gave me a list of six bills. We've got to put all that factual information together" for the legislature.
Maines also teams up with public health educators to develop awareness campaigns. A public relations firm helps translate their data into catchy public campaigns such as the "No BUTS" program, which helps retailers deter underage tobacco sales, and the "Good Work" campaign for employers complying with workplace smoking laws.
It takes compromising, Maines said, "because what they want to say might not be scientifically correct, and I always want to talk about whether it's statistically significant." The goal is to find a consumer message with impact that still is scientifically accurate.
Maines doesn't directly interact with the public, nor does she testify at the statehouse. She's an "I" person, she says,an introvert who works best behind the scenes. At Colby, she sewed costumes for the drama club and handled costume changes during performances. Hailing from Skowhegan, Maine, this would-be psychology major steered instead toward English literature, which taught her the effective reading and writing skills she uses today, she says.
Graduating in the socially conscious Lyndon Johnson era, she easily found work as a state social worker. After seven years, she quit to be home with her two young sons. Maines was a smoker, as was her husband and all 10 members of her small extended family. Even though her children begged her to quit and her father died of emphysema, Maines didn't stop smoking. Only after returning to work for the state, in the Bureau of Health educating the public about the dangers of toxic chemicals, was she motivated to quit,mostly out of embarrassment. It was "feeling like a social outcast that helped me quit," Maines said. Seven years later, in 2001, Maines moved to the tobacco program.
Even with the state's perfect report card, there's still work to be done. Pregnant women and 18- to 24-year olds are two of the groups currently targeted by the program. And since one Maine citizen dies every day from exposure to second-hand smoke, protecting the non-smoking public remains a top priority for the program and a focus for Maines.
Yet when Maines sees someone smoking in public, she doesn't let it bother her. "I don't have to be the cigarette police," she said. Instead, she and her colleagues work toward changing social norms and altering expectations about public smoking, allowing thousands of Maine citizens to breathe easier.