LENA MITCHELL: Fighting tobacco use will make state healthier

Last weekend I spent an interesting half-day at the Bear Creek Festival in Belmont.

The C.C. Shook Park on Mississippi Highway 25 was filled with dozens of booths and exhibitors: arts and crafts vendors, a games midway for children and adults, live musical entertainment, food preparers.

More than 100 vehicles were registered for the antique car show, and for the 36th year hundreds of local residents and visitors from far and wide enjoyed Belmont’s most festive summer event.

While many people were staffing booths where they had wares to sell, some of us used the opportunity to communicate our public service messages to a wider audience: Girl Scouts, the Owens Foundation, me on behalf of the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition of Prentiss/Tishomingo Counties, and many others.

An eye-opening aspect of meeting people when they approached the booth for information was the personal stories they shared:

• A mother concerned because her 20-year-old son recently began smoking cigarettes, an age when she said he should know all the dangers but is using it as a coping tool for stress on the job.

• A sister who said her brother was asking for a cigarette while in the hospital battling a critical tobacco-related illness.

• A man with his family that included two teenagers, a younger child and his wife, who proudly said he had quit using tobacco a decade ago.

• A man with his wife and two young children. Although his wife said she smoked and was trying to quit for their children’s sake, the man said he had no intention of quitting. “You have to die of something,” he said.

• Others who were trying to influence friends or family members to give up tobacco and information on the free state Department of Health Mississippi Tobacco Quitline: (800) 784-8669 or www.quitlinems.com.

The Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition, groups of community volunteers in all of Mississippi’s 82 counties, works under the direction of the state Department of Health to reduce tobacco-related disease and death.

We try to involve individuals from all segments of the community, so if fighting tobacco-related illness is important to you, please contact your local coalition coordinator and become an active participant in the battle.

The county coordinators establish student anti-tobacco teams in public schools, from elementary through high school, so children of all ages can be involved.

The anti-tobacco effort also extends to working to help establish tobacco-free ordinances in local municipalities. In the past two months the municipalities of Baldwyn, Plantersville and Walnut in Northeast Mississippi have passed smoke-free ordinances, and a young Girl Scout in Iuka is beginning her campaign to get an anti-smoking ordinance passed.

Other Northeast Mississippi municipalities that have passed smoke-free ordinances – either 100 percent or on a limited basis – include Starkville, Tupelo, Mantachie, Oxford, Aberdeen, Amory, Corinth, Ecru, Pontotoc, Rienzi, Okolona, Calhoun City, New Albany, Verona and Booneville.

The Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition county coordinators in Northeast Mississippi welcome your support and involvement. Contact them at the email addresses listed below:

• Alcorn/Tippah Counties: Emily McGrath, emilyjanzenmcgrath@live.com

• Benton/Marshall/Union Counties: Linda Turner, lturnerbyhalia@aol.com

• Calhoun/Grenada/Yalobusha Counties: Sue Mashburne, smashburne@yahoo.com

• Chickasaw/Itawamba/Lee/Monroe Counties: Tonya Gentry, tgentry@nmhs.net

• Clay/Lowndes/Oktibbeha Counties: Nikika L. McLeod, nmcleod@ext.msstate.edu

• Lafayette//Panola/Pontotoc Counties: Justin Pope, jpope_99@yahoo.com

• Prentiss/Tishomingo Counties: Melissa Nash, ellybeth@frontiernet.net

Every individual can make a difference in this effort. Talk with your mayor, aldermen and/or city council members and tell them how important it is to remove tobacco from public life for the health of our communities.

LENA MITCHELL is the Daily Journal Corinth Bureau reporter and writes a Sunday column each month. Contact her at lena.mitchell@journalinc.com.

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  • Kevin

    I don’t really know how effective tobacco prevention can be in the long term, but in the past decade or so I’ve noticed a sea change among Mississippians in regard to smoking. I see less and less folks tolerating it. On a recent trip to Chicago and Seattle, I noticed far more people smoking in public than I do here at home–maybe because those cities contain more residents than the entire state of Mississippi–but I think the state’s commitment to combatting smoking may also be the cause.