Schenectady County

Schenectady officials taking lead in stop-smoking challenge

To kick off a citywide stop-smoking challenge, the county sheriff is going to quit smoking Friday.

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To kick off a citywide stop-smoking challenge, the county sheriff is going to quit smoking Friday.

Several city employees have also pledged to quit, and Mayor Gary McCarthy hopes many more city residents will join the challenge at Saturday’s health fair.

For Sheriff Dominick Dagostino, the challenge starts Friday — on his birthday.

“I’ve tried five or six times,” he said. “Every day I wake up in the morning saying I’m not going to smoke anymore.”

But the longest he’s gone without a cigarette is five months.

“It’s been hard to do,” he said.

He smokes one to one-and-a-half packs a day. He plans to go cold turkey Friday, but he’ll use a nicotine patch and gum to ease off the addiction.

He started smoking as a Schenectady police officer, he said. By then, many smokers were trying to quit, and people warned him off.

He recalled his sergeant telling him, “Son, you’re going to be sorry someday.”

But at the time he wasn’t worried.

“I told him I was just smoking one or two cigarettes a day,” he said. “I thought I could control it.”

Friday he’ll try to prove he can.

Those who quit with counseling and nicotine patches or gum have a 30 percent chance of staying smoke-free after a year, while only 2 percent to 4 percent of those who try it alone succeed, according to the Seton Health Center for Smoking Cessation.

Joining Dagostino on Oct. 15 will be Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen, who managed to quit for four and a half years.

“And then I started again, like an idiot,” he said. “The pressures of this job will make you do some things.”

He started smoking again five years ago. This time he’s quitting for the grandchildren he doesn’t yet have — he wants to be alive to spend time with them.

“At 54 years old, it may be too late already,” he said. “Obviously I’m not ignorant to the effect it is having on me.”

His goal is to find another way to cope with his fast-paced job.

“There are other people with stressful jobs who don’t smoke, and I’ll just have to be one of them,” he said. “The aggravations on the job, I’ll just have to learn to deal with them some other way.”

The challenge will be part of Saturday’s health fair, running from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at City Hall. The fair will be outside in good weather but will move into City Hall if it rains.

More than 20 vendors will be there with information on managing diabetes and nutrition, quitting smoking and more.

They also will be giving out prizes ranging from toothbrushes to chair massages.

The health fair will be held amid a series of festivals and celebrations downtown.

The Stockade Villagers’ Outdoor Art Show will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in the Stockade neighborhood.

The St. George Greek Festival will run Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. at 510 Liberty St. It will continue Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

The Little Italy Festival will run from noon to 9 p.m. on North Jay Street, while Jay Fest will run on the pedestrian-only portion of Jay Street from noon to 5 p.m.

Experience & Creative Design will also hold its fall open house Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 510 Union St.

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