Back-to-school tobacco-free

| September 5, 2016

By Nancy Cripe

With Labor Day just around the corner of the upcoming weekend and the new school year fully in swing, summer is a wrap for Allen County’ children. Their days are packed with renewing and building friendships, adjusting to new schedules and teachers, laboring over homework, and stretching to find time for beloved extra-curricular activities.

While their kids hustle from class to class, activity to activity, parents do their best to ensure they stay safe, even as they spend most of their waking hours away from home. One of the safeguards parents may not often think to put in place, though is protection against exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. With more than 250 toxins and 70 cancer-causing chemicals, this is no small hazard to young lungs, hearts, and brains. And even if no one smokes at home, children have many opportunities to be exposed. Do any of their friends smoke?  Their friends’ parents? Does your child play or participate in sporting events that take place in parks or athletic fields that aren’t smokefree? As yet in Allen County, there are no regulations to protect children from secondhand smoke in these otherwise “kid-friendly” outdoor environments.

It is important to have a conversation with kids about the environments in which they find themselves.  Having an open conversation about their activities and the importance of avoiding secondhand smoke as they move through their activities can help parents assess how to protect them. If children are riding in cars or spending time in homes exposed to tobacco smoke or vaping aerosols, it is time to make some changes. It may be time to change who drives them to an activity or to school. Time to coach them to ask others not to smoke or vape into the air that they are sharing.  Or time to brainstorm options for avoiding being near people smoking outdoors.

Even if you are a parent who smokes or vapes, you can protect your family from second- and third-hand (chemical residues lingering on surfaces, in dust, in heat and A/C ducts) exposure.  Implement a no  smoking/ no vaping policy for your home and vehicles. Inhaling and exhaling of toxic substances, if done at all, should be reserved for the outdoors, far from others, and away from kids’ play areas.

Informing children of the dangers of secondhand exposure also helps reinforce the importance of saying “no” if others offer them cigarettes, cigarillos, little cigars, hookahs, vape pens or e-cigarettes.  While the latter category of “smoking” devices does not produce ALL of the 7,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, it does produce a number of chemical aerosol constituents to be concerned about: heavy metals; food flavorings intended for the digestive tract, not the lungs; the addictive and neuro-toxic natural pesticide, nicotine; heart-damaging acrolein and some of the same cancer-causing nitrosamines and aldehydes found in cigarette smoke.

All of these products except regular cigarettes come in a stunning array of kid-attracting, fruit and candy flavors. They are kid-bait, serving the bottom lines of an industry that must attract and addict each new generation in order to survive once the current generation of users quits or dies. This, too, is a conversation to have with your children. Pay attention to the environments they walk past on the way to school and where they go to buy soda and snacks. Candy and snack outlets near schools, parks, and other environments where kids spend time that sell tobacco will nearly always be plastered with marketing visuals for cheap tobacco, flavored and novel tobacco, e-cigarettes, menthol products, and discounts. Notice the number of ads placed at kids’ eye level in their parking lots, on the light poles, doors, and windows, and near the candy.  Those candy- flavored cigars on the counter selling for 99 cents? This is not the store owner’s doing.  It is the industry at work, targeting your children, seeking to get into their heads and seduce them into becoming their next generation of addict consumers. Talk to your children about the harsh, ugly realities of tobacco use and addiction, the truth lying behind the slick, glossy, yummy-flavored lies of the marketing.

And when you, or the tobacco users you know, are tired of answering the nagging call of nicotine cravings and are ready to begin recovery from tobacco addiction, help is just a phone call 1-800-Quit-Now or click away at Tobacco Free Allen County is happy to provide more information, more quitting resources, answer questions, and offer encouragement at (260) 760-7555 or (260) 373-4276.

Nancy Cripe is executive director of Tobacco Free Allen County.

Editor’s note: A previously posted version of this story had an unaffiliated website address attached. Tobacco Free Allen County is in no way associated with that website and recommends the following sites to aid in smoking cessation:

We apologize for any confusion this might have caused.

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Category: Health, Local

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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