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Health & Wellness, Interviews

Breathe Easy Washington: Second-Hand Smoke is More Dangerous Than We Think

I first learned about Breath Easy Washington at one of the Sunsets on the Riverfront. Joette Reidy came up to me and asked me to sign their petition. Smoking has been proven to be bad for your health, but it’s a personal choice. However, when others are subjected to secon-hand smoke it becomes a problem. What is Breath Easy Washington and who is behind it? Read more about it in the following interview with Joette Reidy.

What prompted you to start “Breathe Easy Washington”?

The evidence is clear, there are no safe levels of second-hand smoke. The idea of Washington looking into a smoke-free policy was presented a couple times by individuals to the Washington City Council. It was obvious that a more organized effort was needed to truly make this a reality. Kevin Cundiff organized the first meeting in January of 2012 and invited members of the community that he knew were concerned with the second-hand smoke issues.

Some of the members of Breathe Easy Washington.

Some of the members of Breathe Easy Washington.

Who is involved in the organization and what is your mission?

Our Coalition is made up of a broad spectrum of local residents and leaders, business owners, teachers, students, and other health conscious people who would like to see Washington have a 100% comprehensive smoke-free ordinance. We are also working closely with Stacy Reliford, a consultant from the American Cancer Society. She is a resident of Kirkwood, where a smoke free ordinance was recently successfully implemented. She is a wealth of information and has offered tremendous support to our group not only about the dangers of second-hand smoke but also the workings of government and implementation of new law.

What are some of the steps you have taken to make your goal come true?

The first thing that needed to be done was to educate ourselves about the dangers of second-hand smoke. It is an obvious nuisance and everyone knows second-hand smoke contains carcinogens, but in order to educate the community we needed fact based evidence to back our claims. We also needed to educate ourselves about government policies and how to take this from and idea to the city council to an actual ordinance.

After spending countless hours of research it was time to educate the community. We have done interviews on KLPW, started a Facebook page and website (www.breatheeasywashmo.org), and had articles published in the Missourian. We have billboards, Newspaper adds, radio adds and an ad at the Cinema. We have also spoken with civic organizations in Washington including the Rotary Club, the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, PEO, Beta Sigma Phi (a local service sorority) and others.

Secondly, we needed to know if a smoke-free ordinance is what the community and business owners of Washington wanted. We have collected a list of over 1750 individual supporters and close to 70 business and organization supporters. We have found that the community overwhelmingly supports clean indoor in Washington.

I was not surprised by the typical health-conscious young adults that were anxious to support us, but I was surprised by the smokers that were willing to sign our support lists. One stated, “I have quit smoking so many times before and I do fine until I go out for a beer with some of my buddies and they’re smoking. I end up thinking, “just one won’t hurt”, then I’m hooked again. If we could keep bars and restaurants smoke-free, I could be smoke free, too” He went on to sign support – pen in one hand, cigarette in the other. Now we are sharing the information that we have gathered with the City Council Members and Mayor Sandy Lucy.

Breathe Easy Washington

Have you seen the Breathe Easy Washington billboard? It’s with Nicole from Old Dutch Tavern, one of the smoke-free local restaurants.

Is second-hand smoking that dangerous?

Second-hand smoke is even more dangerous than I had originally thought. I always linked the dangers of second-hand smoke to lung and cancer issues, but I was surprised to learn the effects of second-hand smoke on the heart are often deadly. Second-hand smoke causes the aorta to stiffen after just 5 minutes of exposure. After 20 minutes, the platelets become as sticky as a smokers, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke from a blood clot. Second-hand smoke has over 7,000 different chemicals, and over 60 are known to cause cancer. According to 2006 Surgeon General’s Report, there is no safe level of second-hand smoke exposure. Even brief exposure can be dangerous. For example, a person who has cystic fibrous, even as little as one breath can harm them and make it almost impossible to breathe taking them days to recover. Second hand smoke causes respiratory symptom in children and can slow their lung growth. It is the leading cause of preventable death today, causing almost 50,000 deaths in adult nonsmokers in the United States each year, including approximately 3,400 from lung cancer and 22,700-69,600 from heart disease.

Second-hand smoking is more dangerous than we think.

Second-hand smoking is more dangerous than we think.

Are there restaurants and bars in Washington that have become smoke free thanks to your efforts?

The Knights of Columbus went smoke-free in the bar and lounge June 1, 2012.
Miller’s Grill went smoke-free August 20, 2012.

What needs to be accomplished for Washington to become a smoke free town?

It is ultimately up to our city council to pass a smoke-free ordinance. Many US local and state governments, and even federal governments in some other countries, have decided that protecting the health of employees and others in public places is of the utmost importance. Many have passed clean indoor air laws. Although the laws vary from place to place, they are becoming more and more common. Detailed information on smoking restrictions in each state is available from the American Lung Association at www.lungusa2.org/slati/.

Can people volunteer to help with your efforts?

Yes, they can contact Joette Reidy, BEW Coalition President @ joette@happyapples.com or Joyce Lara laraj@health.missouri.edu for information about joining our list of supporters, becoming a business supporter, or about information on upcoming meetings. They can also reach us through our Facebook page or our website, www.breatheeasywashington.org

People can also contact their city council members to let them know that they support 100% smoke-free air and would like to see a city-wide ordinance passed in Washington.

Smoking is a personal choice. But when it comes to endangering others, we need to stop and think.

Smoking is a personal choice. But when it comes to endangering others, we need to stop and think.

Anything else you would like to add.

Separate or ventilated smoking areas do not protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke can spread from a smoking area to a non- smoking area, even if the doors between the two areas are closed and even if ventilation is provided. Only 100% smoke-free environments provide effective protection.

Even the best ventilation system will take out the sights and smells of second-hand smoke, leaving the cancer causing chemicals in the air we breathe. We are not here to infringe on anyone’s right to smoke. Our mission is to protect the air quality in public indoor spaces. Everyone has the right to smoke, but they do not have the right to harm someone else’s health in doing so. Everyone deserves the right to breathe clean indoor air. It is similar to the Drinking and Driving law. Everyone has the right to drink, but not to the point that it affects the health of the public by getting behind the wheel intoxicated.

Communities that have passed smoke-free policies have reported that it has been very well received and they are glad they made the step to protect the health of their citizens. Over 27 states in the USA have smoke-free policies and over 20 communities in Missouri, adding more communities as people become more educated and aware of the dangers.

Photos: Breathe Easy Washington and Slava Bowman Photography

About Slava

I am a twenty-something Bulgarian girl in the USA, re-discovering the world through the lens.

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