A recently awarded grant is set to help Alachua County residents stamp out smoking.

UF was awarded $1.6 million by the Florida Department of Health to create a tobacco cessation program to battle tobacco-induced cancer and cardiovascular disease.

This program is part of a statewide network called OneFlorida developed by the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

The network includes UF and Florida State University and is currently expanding to include the University of Miami.

The smoking rate is 14 percent in Alachua County and 8 percent at UF, according to Tobacco Free Alachua health policy specialist Andrew Romero.

Romero said one of its biggest pushes over the next couple years will be apartment complexes and bars.

“Downtown has a lot of bars that are voluntarily smoke-free and provide a safe environment for their patrons,” Romero said. “Our goal is to reach out to bars in Midtown and apartment complexes and let them know that being smoke-free will not affect them financially, regardless of what a tobacco company may tell them.”

Clubs and bars downtown such as Tall Paul’s Brew House, The Atlantic, 2nd Street Speakeasy and now Stubbies and Steins are all smoke-free businesses. The Swamp Restaurant on University Avenue was the first Midtown bar to ban smoking inside, he said.

This project, funded by the Department of Health’s James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program, will help combat the 28,600 annual deaths that come from cigarette use in Florida, according to the press release.

Kathy Nichols, co-chair of the UF Tobacco-Free Task Force, said tobacco is the No. 1 preventable cause of death and disease in the nation and the world.

“We offer individual counseling for students interested in quitting and can provide up to four weeks of nicotine replacement therapy and counseling treatment for free,” She said. 

The grant will fund three researchers per year from either Florida A&M University or Edward Waters College to help minority populations, according to the press release.

Claire Baralt, UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute communications director, said the grant’s purpose is to put the tobacco cessation program in doctors’ offices to implement strategies to help their patients stop smoking.

“The long term goal is put our research to use with a combination of screening, counseling, referrals and resources that can help patients quickly,” Baralt said. “We need to improve the health of Floridians.”

[A version of this story ran on page 8 on 6/17/2014 under the headline "UF program set to put out cigarettes"]