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Free Webinar Looks at the Intersection of Smoking and Food Insecurity

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DALTON, Mass. — Smokers, on average, pay about $11 for a pack of cigarettes. So, if they stop, lower-income smokers should have more money. Right? 
But the calculation isn't that simple when other stress factors are considered, such as food insecurity. 
"You have to understand that when people are addicted to nicotine, nicotine may serve a couple of functions, smokers may feel, it helps them reduce stress," said Joyce Brewer, manager of Berkshire AHEC's Tobacco-Free Community Partnership Program. "Or if they are food insecure, it might staunch the feeling that they're hungry so that they have enough to feed their children." 
The Berkshire Area Health Education Center is hosting a free webinar on Thursday, Aug. 18, from 8:30 to 10 a.m., to educate the community on the correlation between food insecurity and smoking cessation with Jin Kim-Mozeleski, assistant professor in the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. 
Professor Kim-Mozeleski will discuss the link between food insecurity and tobacco use while analyzing recent research studies. 
A common misconception that they are working to dispute is the idea that if someone stopped purchasing cigarettes then they would have money, but there are many factors that people do not consider that contradict this. 
Brewer said they want to inform the community how social-economic status, tobacco use, and health are all interconnected. She has been working for three years on a case study that is funded through a grant from Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program. 
"Food insecurity affects your health. It impacts children's development and impacts someone's ability to try to quit. In my travels and doing presentations, people will often say, 'Well, I know I smoke more when I'm stressed,'" Brewer said 
"So, we can't ask people to try to quit if they're worried about food, feeding their families, housing, and employment which are all a part of making a healthier community for all.  
Brewer noted that the issue of food insecurity has been exacerbated because of COVID-19. Communities of color have been impacted the greatest not only in the effects of the virus but in food insecurity. 
"[This webinar is important] because we have learned long ago — but more exacerbated during the last few years — that the social determinants of health have a great impact on community health,” AHEC Executive Director Gena DiSimoni Johnson said. 
"And if we're going to solve problems before they start, rather than address the symptoms when they exist, we need to educate more people about how everything is connected." 
Brewer said that although the novel coronavirus has intensified this issue, the size of the Berkshires allows for good communication between organizations. She is also part of Northern Berkshire and South County Food Access collaboratives. 
There are options for those trying to quit smoking. Those interested in quitting can reach out to the MA Smokers' Helpline at 1-800-Quit-Now for free coaching and support. Quit Now is also offering menthol smokers up to $50 in gift cards to Massachusetts residents who participate in the coaching services. 
Berkshire AHEC is a local nonprofit that provides continuing education and community education on topics surrounding all aspects of health care. 

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DA Clears Trooper in Fatal Hancock Shooting

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

District Attorney Timothy Shugrue says the results of an autopsy by the medical examiner will not change his findings, which are based on the video and witnesses. With him are State Police Lts. Chris Bruno and Ryan Dickinson and First Assistant District Attorney Marianne Shelvey.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — District Attorney Timothy Shugrue has determined that State Police Trooper William Munch acted in compliance during what is being described as a "suicide by cop" earlier this month.
On Sept. 9, 64-year-old Phillip Henault reportedly placed a fictitious 911 call about an ongoing violent assault. Body-camera footage from the trooper shows the man advancing on him with two knives before being shot twice and collapsing in the street in front of his Richmond Road residence.
"Mr. Henault was actively using deadly force against law enforcement. There were no other objectively reasonable means that the trooper could have employed at the time in order to effectively protect himself and anyone that was in the home or the public. By virtue of his duties as a police officer, the trooper did not have the obligation to run away from Mr. Henault," Shugrue said during a press conference on Friday.
"Mr. Henault posed an active threat to the trooper and to the public. The trooper had a duty to arrest Mr. Henault who was engaged in various felonies. His arm was an active threat."
The DA determined that Munch's decision to fire his weapon at Henault under the circumstances was a "lawful and reasonable exercise of self-defense and defense of others" compliance with the policies of the State Police and commonwealth law, clearing the trooper of criminal charges and closing the investigation.
The lethal force was labeled as an "unavoidable last resort."
A preliminary autopsy determined the unofficial cause of death was two gunshot wounds to the torso with contributing factors of wounds to the wrists that were inflicted by Heneault. The final report from the medical examiner has not been issued.
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