An anti-smoking crusade visited Starkville Thursday to raise support for a statewide smoking ban.
Led by the Mississippi State Department of Health, Smokefree Air Mississippi has organized a grassroots tour informing people of the dangers of second hand smoking with the catchphrase, “Everybody deserves to breathe smokefree air.”
Members of the campaign say that Mississippi residents are ready to see a public smoking ban across the state.
Eighty percent of Mississippi residents don’t smoke, while 57 percent of the smokers support smoke-free restaurants and 71 percent of all Mississippians believe that worksites should be smoke-free.
“There is a clear majority of support for this,” said Langston Moore, Smoke-free Air program director.
Four years after Starkville passed a no-smoking ordinance, 35 towns and cities have similar regulations in place.
Starkville residents experienced a 27.7 percent decline in heart attack admissions, while out-of-towners who visited the OCH Regional Medical Center had a 14.8 percent reduction, saving $288,270.
The smoking ban in Hattiesburg saved $2.3 million and decreased the number of heart attacks of its residents by 13.4 percent, according to an October 2010 study conducted by Mississippi Tobacco Data.
The state still, however, spends $264 billion each year on direct Medicaid costs for tobacco-related illnesses. And tobacco-related illnesses remain the most preventable followed by obesity.
In towns without smoking bans, breathing second hand smoke is not an option in many public places.
Patrick Quinn, manager of Mug Shots in Starkville, said he opposed Starkville’s smoking ban when it was first presented.
“But hindsight is 20/20,” he said. “It’s really cleaning up the town as a whole.”
Mississippi would be the 34th state to pass a smoking ban if approved by the Mississippi legislature, said Dr. Robert McMillen, whose research and activism led to Starkville’s smoking ordinance.
Exposure to tobacco causes major illnesses, primarily for children and the elderly, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), low birth weights, asthma, ear infections, vision loss, heart disease, lung cancer, nasal and sinus cancer and oral cancer.
Each year 550 nonsmokers who live in Mississippi die from having breathed secondhand smoke. Health specialists have warned that there is no safe exposure to tobacco and of the dangers of second-hand smoke are not alleviated by alternatives, according to studies from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
Smoke-free policies have proven to reduce workplace liability and maintenance costs and increase productivity, officials say. For more information call 1-866-724-6114 or visit: http://www.smokefreeAirAMS.com .