Wal-Mart hosts smoking awareness event

SPECIAL TO THE REPORTER

The Shelby County Coalition and the Alabama Department of Public Health encouraged Wal-Mart shoppers to not &8220;Clown Around with Secondhand Smoke&8221;on Saturday, Feb. 2, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Karamie Barksdale, community prevention specialist, Tammie Burnett, tobacco control coordinator with the Alabama Department of Public Health and students from Thompson High School&8217;s Key Club organized the youth tobacco prevention project by setting up a table in Wal-Mart to distribute information regarding the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure.

They also passed out information on the benefits of adopting a smoke-free policy in the community.

Ladybug the Clown was also there painting faces and encouraging participants not to &8220;clown around with secondhand smoke&8221; inside.

The event was part of an effort by the Shelby County Coalition and the Alabama Department of Public Health to reduce the incidence of youth tobacco use in Shelby County.

According to last year&8217;s PRIDE survey results, Alabama saw a three percent increase in youth tobacco use. This in addition to Shelby County&8217;s 11 percent higher rate of teen smoking.

Barksdale said that increasing research indicates that the most effective way to prevent youth from starting to smoke was to change community norms regarding the deadly habit.

She added that if teens do not observe adults using the substance and accepting its use, neither will they.

Secondhand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death every year, taking more lives than AIDS, homicide and other drug use combined.

Barksdale explained, &8220;We are not trying to ban smoking, we are only trying to protect innocent people from being harmed by other people&8217;s habit. Smokers can still smoke outside public buildings. We are simply asking to create a healthy environment for those confined to breathe the same air.&8221;

Materials on the dangers of second-hand smoke are available to the public. For more information, call Karamie Barksdale at 663-6301