Growing concern over smoking in public areas has brought many Cooper County residents together to join a cooperative effort to form Boonville's Breathe Easy. A community event was held Tuesday evening at the Cooper County Public Health Center to discuss smoking issues within the community.
The topic of the evening focused on second hand smoke (SHS) and the effects it has on non-smokers. A power point presentation was given by Kim Weimholt to give people a better idea. According to the presentation SHS, is composed of over 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and 69 that cause cancer. It stated 9,500 people die each year from smoking, 900 being non-smokers who are subjected to the presence of SHS. According to the Surgeon General, a half an hour exposer to SHS will cause heart damage similar to that of a regular smoker.
The presentation then dove into the effects on children, which included an increased risk of chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, allergies, asthma and deaths from accidental fires caused by smoking. Furthermore, infants who are subject to SHS are more likely to die from SIDS. According to Weimholt SHS causes 1,800 early births in Missouri each year.
An open discussion followed the presentation on the effects and effort in proposing a public smoke free environment in Boonville. The issues revolved around the effects on businesses. Evidence was brought forward that stated business increased in some locations because it brought more of a family-like atmosphere to the location.
Cooper County Public Health Department Administrator Melanie Hein said there are still many places in town that allow smoking, including the bowling alley, many restaurants and the Isle of Capri Casino. She told of her personal experiences with her child and the ability to take her child to a safe environment to participate in activities without the worry of SHS.
Many Missouri cities have passed ordinances banning smoking in public places such as Columbia and Jefferson City. The talk also focused on the issues the youth dealing with in regards to smoking.
Two Pilot Grove students, Alex Cooper and Luke Schuster, both members of an organization known as Smokebusters, talked to the attendees about the problems of smoking in the youth.
Smokebusters, which was developed in 1999 by the Northeast Missouri Cancer Control Coalition to empower youth to take action to reduce tobacco use
and exposure to secondhand smoke. It evolved into a three year program with each year representing a graduation to higher-level achievement. The program addresses tobacco-use prevention in schools, homes and communities by training groups of 8 - 12 grade students to educate other students in the classroom and adults in the community. The objective is to seek environmental and policy changes to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.
Cooper and Schuster presented some pictures using Central Missouri Community Action's Photo Voice Program.
"The goal of CMCA's Photovoice project is to give a voice to children in order to empower them to make changes in their local communities. CMCA originally centered the Photovoice Project around poverty related issues. (i.e.meeting basic needs, etc.). However, in theory you can do a PhotoVoice project around any social issue," CMCA's Evan Melkersman said.
Cooper County Hospital CEO Alan Waldo also presented information on the direction hospitals are taking to combat SHS including banning all smoking near doors where people enter. He said when the smell subsides, many of the chemicals are still left behind for people to inhale.