with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Coalition for a Smoke Free Mobile, Alabama

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.

They even have annual celebrations for Kick Butts Day in April, World No Tobacco Day on May 31st, and the Great American Smokeout held the third Thursday in November.

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It also includes an out-of-date but usable Smoke Free Restaurant Guide for Mobile, Alabama, in PDF form. It’s out of date because some of these restaurants are no longer open (yet or ever) due to recent hurricane damage.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.

One Comment

  • Posted September 4, 2006 at 13:37 | Permalink

    If only more smokers knew about the effects that tobacco growing has on the environment, maybe they would think twice about lighting up!!
    Tobacco is the most widely grown non- food crop in the world. It is grown in over 100 countries. Tobacco does not grow on salt lands, clay lands, or deserts. It grows on land that was previously given over to food production and rain forests. The tobacco plant belongs to the Nicotiana genus, so named after a Frenchman, Jean Nicot who was passionate about the plant. There are three types of tobacco, Virginia, Oriental, and Burley.

    Tobacco is a very labour intensive crop, needing many chemicals and fertilisers to produce a good yield. The seedlings are grown in beds and need at least 16 applications of pesticides are recommended to ensure healthy growth. So potent are these chemicals that the areas carry a warning that no one should smoke near the beds. Nearby local water supplies are affected from the over usage of chemicals. Because tobacco growing is labour intensive, women and children work long hours, and child labour is frequent. Tobacco crops harbour some potentially destructive plant viruses and moulds, which can damage surrounding plant life.

    Deforestation is one of the world’s most pressing problems. Forests act as giant sponges, absorbing water then releasing it to the surrounding land. Remove the forests and the result is flooding and drought. Deforestation also contributes to global warming by changing climates. To manufacture tobacco the leaves of the plant have to be dried, this is called curing. Leaves are laid on racks under which fires are lit. For every 1 kg of tobacco produced, 7.8 kg of wood is used in the curing of the leaves. 1 in 8 trees in the world are cut down for the tobacco industry. This equates to 9 million acres of forests each year.

    The cigarette and everything associated with it is damaging to the environment. The use of paper, the filters, the smoke, and the litter problem as millions of butts line our streets and parks. Tobacco is one of the world’s most controversial crops, by stopping smoking you are helping to clean up the environment.

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