Students work to create clean air zones

The Florida Department of Health in Washington County and the Washington County SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) Chapter are celebrating local employers and progress made in reducing exposure to secondhand smoke.

Local SWAT members were one of 16 teams nationwide chosen to attend the National Truth Initiative’s Youth Advocacy Summit that took place July 2016. Students chose to work on decreasing exposure to secondhand smoke by building entrances as their project. “Having smoking bins at entrances to buildings increases exposure to secondhand smoke” said Ashten Tharp. He also stated, “if we work with local business to establish 25 foot clean air zones, we can help people stay healthier especially those that are sensitive to cigarette smoke.”

Lily Anderson and JaLisa Bellamy stated “we want to be part of the generation that ends tobacco use in our lifetime.”  Students Working Against Tobacco have been identifying local business willing to support Clean Air Zones at building entrances to help improve the health of employees and patrons to their businesses.  According to The American Lung Association (ALA), “being employed in a workplace where smoking is prohibited is associated with a reduction in the number of cigarettes smoked per day and an increase in the success rate of smokers who are attempting to quit.”

Their effort is reinforced by a new study released by the Truth Initiate in the American Journal of Health Promotion showing that more than a third—36 percent—of non-smokers said they were exposed to secondhand smoke in the past seven days. To learn more, visit http://www.lung.org.

In the study, community settings such as building entrances, restaurant patios, strip malls, parks, and bus stops were the most common venues for secondhand smoke exposure. Thirty-two percent of people in those settings stated they had come into contact with secondhand smoke in the past seven days. Respondents cited cars and homes as the next most common areas for exposure, at seven percent and three percent, respectively. To learn more visit http://truthinitiative.org/research/where-are-people-still-breathing-most-secondhand-smoke

Local businesses such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Morris Industries, and Hobbs Heating and Air Conditioning are leading the way by establishing policies that restrict smoking 25 feet from all entrances. Additionally, Hungry Howie’s and Kings Drugs have “No Smoking” signs posted in their drive-thru windows. “We find ourselves in an urgent need to create a Smoke-Free Grounds Policy due to recent fires that were started when people threw cigarettes on the ground of our business property”, said Charlyce Morris, owner of Morris Industries.

SWAT members are asking local businesses to contact them to learn more about creating Tobacco Free Grounds and Clean Air Zone policies.  “We are partnering with SWAT and ask other businesses to join them in creating healthier workplaces for employees and to protect people visiting our businesses” said Nathan Hobbs, Owner, Hobbs Heating and Air Conditioning.

To learn more about the benefits of Tobacco Free Worksite Policies please visit www.tobaccofreeflorida.com.