I really thought that Mobile, Alabama, was seriously behind the century in terms of cigarette smoke prevention and protection laws, but I learned the other day that there is a Coalition for a Smoke Free Mobile, Alabama. If your business, like a restaurant or park, qualifies as a “smoke free environment”, they will give you a certificate to post on your wall. I found one in a nearby fast food fried chicken and seafood shop.
While their website hasn’t been updated in a while, it lists a wide variety of services, information, and activities that Mobile was doing to help promote a smoke free city.
Students Working Against Tobacco (S.W.A.T.) is a group of high school students helping each other learn about how to avoid cigarettes and cigarette smoke and to promote a “tobacco free Mobile” from Murphy, Vigor and Satsuma High Schools. There are also camps, workshops, and many programs working not only with area students, but also the Native American populations nearby.
I loved this description of one children’s event:
Fifth graders at Woodcock Elementary used straws to simulate the labored breathing a smoker experiences. Kindergarten students participated in an “ugly face” activity making their best ugly face at the damage tobacco does to the body.
The site offers links to a variety of resources for anti-smoking and stop smoking information, locally and nationally, and includes the effects and impact of smoking on adults and children and creating a smoke free work environment.
It also includes an out-of-date but usable Smoke Free Restaurant Guide for Mobile, Alabama, in PDF form. It’s out of date because some of these restaurants are no longer open (yet or ever) due to recent hurricane damage. It isn’t a “smoke free restaurant list” either because while many of the fast food places and chain stores are smoke free per national policy, local law requires designation of a “no-smoking area” not smoke free. Restaurants like Ruby Tuesday and Applebees host bars in the middle of the open restaurant where smoking is permitted, thus they are not smoke free.
Still, it’s a start. While states like Washington and Illinois now have laws that not only prohibit smoking in public places, they restrict smoking near public and private entrances by a certain number of feet. It’s 25 feet in Washington state. Unfortunately, smoking is still considered a right in Alabama and much of the southern United States. Many times I’ve asked someone nicely not to smoke near me and have been told no, that they have a right to smoke. Affronted by their outright rudeness, especially coming from southern gentlemen famous for their hospitality and polite behavior (at least in public), I tell them they don’t have a right and they get angry. So sad that people mix up their rights and privileges. Smoking isn’t a right. Breathing is a right, smoking is a privilege.
Even my chain-smoking, 3 plus pack-a-day father, into his fourth month without a cigarette, is now opening up to the damaging impact. He was stunned to learn that medical estimates report 95% of all children are allergic to cigarette smoke, (estimated 75% of all adults, too, including smokers – the smoker’s hack is a symptom), and the impact of second hand smoke on children which causes them to have “more upper respiratory infections and more difficulty recovering from these infections”, as well as chronic cough and chronic middle-ear infections. Luckily, I was raised with a no smoking mother, but research says that children in two parent or mult-family members smoking have “twice the amount of bronchitis, pneumonia and are hospitalized more frequently before their first birthday than children of non-smoking parents”. I still spent a lot of my childhood sick from constant respiratory infections, flus, coughs, colds, and fevers, not learning that I had a severe allergy to cigarettes until after turning 28 years old.
Watching the throng of people during the past three weeks of Mardi Gras events in Mobile, he has started commenting on how people use cigarettes. He described one woman trying to juggle a cigarette that she just wouldn’t put out or put down with several children climbing all over her. “It was a juggling ballet,” he added. “I didn’t realize that a cigarette is more important than her children.” Watching new born babies carried in one arm while a cigarette is waved around in the other hand, and seeing smoke blown into the faces of these little precious bundles of our future, now makes him sick. He just never “saw” the impact of a cigarette in people’s lives. Remembering all the one armed hugs I got as a child, I know the impact of a cigarette in a child’s life. I’m glad he’s finally learning.
More information on the health policies for the state of Alabama can be found from the Alabama Public Health Organization.