Cigarettes kill — smokers know it, non-smokers know it. And the effects of inhaling second hand smoke are almost as detrimental as smoking itself. Studies show that a waitress who is working in a smoking environment involuntarily inhales an estimated two cigarettes every hour. And yet, there are little-to-no laws in Pulaski County protecting its citizens from the dangers of secondhand smoke and many local restaurants allow smoking in their establishments.
But in 2013, Pulaski County Health Department (PDHD) is making strides to change this.
PCHD recently announced that they received funds for the Healthy Futures Pulaski County (HFPC) initiative from the Missouri Foundation for Health, which focuses improving health through education of Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS).
Israel Doba, HFPC tobacco control coordinator, said that Pulaski County has a higher smoking rate (at 23 percent) than the U.S. population (at 20 percent). He also said that Pulaski County's most prevalent disease is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is caused by smoking.
Even more alarming, he said that one in three Pulaski County youth between sixth and 12th grades have smoked a cigarette and that one in five youth are regular cigarette smokers.
"We are trying to educate and inform about environmental tobacco smoke to improve health in our county," he said.
The initiative's objective is simple: to make Pulaski County become ETS-Free within the next three years. The health department is seeking members to form a coalition as a part of the first step to reaching this goal.
The coalition will also formulate a policy that they feel will help our community decrease ETS, and in the greater view decrease unwanted health complications caused by tobacco smoke.
"The impact of secondhand smoke is way more detrimental than what people think it is," he said.
According to PCHD, after three hours of being in the proximity of a smoker, a person has unknowingly and unwillingly smoked one whole cigarette.
Doba said that protecting Pulaski County children against secondhand smoke is very important.
"Children don't have an option if their parents pull them into a smoking establishment, they can't tell their parents they don't want to go there," he said. "It's not their choice. But in the long run it inflicts many ailments on children including asthma, allergies, multiple types of cancer, and a wide range of respiratory ailments."
HFPC also distributes information to the public concerning ETS, and in the near future will distribute brochures and pamphlets on the many smoke-free business establishments around the county. In addition, HFPC will also work with the schools to educate children on the harms of tobacco.