820 Souls Campaign — a great feat against smoking

Employees of the American Lung Association sort shoes at their Riverchase location for the 820 Souls Campaign. (L-R:) Stacey Adewakun, Richelle Ransom, Lindsay Grant and Matthew Edwards. (Contributed)

By BETH CHAPMAN / Community Columnist

The American Lung Association office in Riverchase has teamed up with other local agencies in collecting 820 pairs of shoes to bring awareness to the negative impact tobacco addiction has on our state.

This awareness is not just about the negative effects of smoking, but the negative effects of smoke on non-smokers.  The number 820 represents the number of non-smoking Alabamians who die each year from exposure to secondhand smoke.

This initiative is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The shoes being collected represent the number of preventable deaths each year in Alabama. They represent people from all walks of life:  local celebrities, elected officials, doctors and others who have either experienced firsthand the devastation that secondhand smoke can cause or know someone who has.

The use of tobacco is by far the number one most preventable cause of the three Ds:  disease, disability and death.  While 78% of Alabamians do not smoke, every year more than 800 die from exposure to secondhand smoke. It seems unfair. It is unfair, and it is preventable.

There are many myths secondhand smoke that need to be dispelled.  One is that a minimal level of exposure to secondhand smoke is not harmful to your health.

That is simply not true. For every eight smokers who die from using tobacco, one non-smoker dies simply from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Those who smoke are not only harming themselves, but others around them including their family members, work associates and fellow patrons at restaurants and other public places.

Another myth is that ventilation systems filter and totally remove the harm of secondhand smoke.

Again, not true. No ventilation system can do that and inhaling the chemicals found in tobacco smoke can cause cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary disease.

Alabama needs to follow in the steps of other states in requesting smoke-free policies and venues. Secondhand smoke is a public health problem and one that needs to be addressed.

The 820 Souls Campaign will conclude with a ceremony May 18 at Railroad Park.

At that time, they will donate the shoes to local charities.

For more information, visit Championsforhealth.org.

Beth Chapman, Alabama’s secretary of state, is a Shelby County resident and writes a weekly column for the Shelby County Reporter. You can reach her at bethchapman@bellsouth.