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In Brief 

by Pia K. Hansen and Cara Gardner

Binding Solution? -- SPOKANE -- The Spokane County Meth Action Team (MAT) listened very intently to Nancy Buckar, the director of government relations for the Consumer Health Care Products Association (CHPA) on Tuesday morning.

Buckar had come to town to give a report on the progress of binding technology, a process in which a chemical is added to cold medication and other over-the-counter products containing pseudo-ephedrine or ephedrine, making it impossible to extract the ephedrine and use it for meth manufacturing.

Unfortunately, this technology isn't ready for the market yet, but Buckar explained that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is working on it.

"No, sadly, she didn't give us a timeline on this thing," says Julie Alonso, a member of MAT and a meth prevention support specialist with the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council. "But Buckar's presentation clarified a lot of things for us. There were some rumors circulating that this technology was already available, but now we know it's not."

Only about 20 percent of the meth that's used in Spokane is manufactured here, says Alonso, and most of it is made in smaller labs. One reason so little meth is produced in this market may be that Washington state rules are more stringent than federal rules when it comes to the purchase of products with ephedrine in them. The Meth Watch Program requires stores to report people who come in repeatedly purchasing one or two boxes of cold medication.

"It does help," says Alonso. "Still, a large percentage of cold medication is stolen from stores, so it really helps to keep it under lock and key. There is no law that requires stores to do that, but many do."

Quit Now! -- SPOKANE -- There's good news for smokers who have a hard time quitting: If you "commit to quit" today, you won't be alone. Thursday, Nov. 20, is the 27th annual Great American Smokeout, a nationwide anti-smoking effort sponsored by the American Cancer Society and coordinated locally by the Spokane Regional Health District's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. More smokers have quit during the Great American Smokeout than on any other day of the year.

"One in five Spokane county adults are smokers," says Melanie Rose, spokesperson for the SRHD. "We want people to use the Great American Smokeout as the day they commit to quit tobacco products."

Anyone who's willing to give up their pack of cigarettes or chewing tobacco can get a free slice of pizza at David's Pizza, located at on the corner of Boone and Hamilton, or a free turkey sandwich from Quizno's at 905 S. Grand Blvd. or in the Spokane Valley Mall.

Free "quit kits" will be passed out to smokers across town.

"[The quit kits] have information about how to quit smoking and the phone number for the quit line," says Rose. According to the SRHD, the average smoker attempts to quit five to seven times before succeeding.

To get help on quitting smoking, call the Washington Tobacco Quit Line, (877) 270-STOP or visit:

Results Wanted -- SPOKANE -- The Washington State Department of Ecology will give out $87 million next year to projects that attempt to protect and improve water quality across the state.

That's down from $115.3 million in the last funding cycle. Another big change is that communities receiving grants or loans from Ecology will have to show that they are actually solving the problems they say they are working on.

"We've always worked with communities to be sure they spend the money on the things they said they would," says Dick Wallace, manager of the Ecology water quality program. "The difference is, now we'll also require them to show how their projects achieved actual environmental benefits."

The new rules are a direct response to the legislature's request that state agencies watch their expenditures more closely while the state wrestles with its deficit.

If a community can't demonstrate that the water project in question actually worked, it's more likely not to get any more funding.

"The bottom line," says Wallace, "is these projects are a huge investment of public funds. We need to find out whether that investment pays off."

Publication date: 11/20/03
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