About 40 people gathered at Katy Trail Community Health, 821 Westwood, Tuesday night to discuss the possibility of making Sedalia a smoke-free city to improve public health.
Speakers at the community event, presented by Clean Air Sedalia, included representatives from the Pettis County Health Center, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and the the Department of Family and Community Medicine of the University of Missouri School of Medicine.
Also speaking were two students, Krysta Ott a Smith-Cottton Junior High seventh grader; and Hunter Harris, a Sedalia Middle School fifth grader.
The two presented statistics that indicate well over 9,000 Missourians die from smoke-related illnesses every year, and another 900 die from second-hand cigarette smoke. “There are no risk-free levels for cigarette smoke,” Ott said. “We are suffering from the consequences of increased tobacco use.”
Lung specialist Dr. William G. Woolery also spoke at the “community gathering” and made note of the thousands of dangerous chemicals contained in cigarettes, some of which are known to cause cancer. He said he has seen a 20 to 30 percent increase in lung cancer patients affected bv second-hand smoke. And the idea of having smoking and non-smoking sections in restaurants is fairly ridiculous. He spoke in favor of a city ordinance prohibiting smoking in restaurants, bars and workplaces.
Jeanean Sieving, Clean Air Sedalia, said that her organization, which is a part of the Blue Ribbon Committee’s Health and Wellness Team, is attempting to educate the citizens of Sedalia on the dangers of second-hand smoke and eventually help pass a city ordinance that would make Sedalia a smoke-free city.
Many cities in Missouri have already done just that. About 22 cities have passed comprehensive ordinances and seven have passed ordinances with certain exemptions.
But for most of the guest speakers on the panel, it’s “all or nothing” when it comes to restricting smoking in public places. “Ideally, we would like to include all restaurants, bars and workplaces. We don’t like to call it a smoking ban, because we’re not telling people they can’t smoke, we’re just asking them to step outside,” Amanda Petelin, American Cancer Society, said.
Leah Wiggs, American Lung Association, said that her organization cannot support or work with communities that don’t support a comprehensive ordinance. “Because it is for employees’ health … which in turn will make for a healthier community,” she said. In cities where smoking ordinances were passed, “people didn’t stop going to bars, bowling alleys, restaurants, etc.,” adding that she is aiming for a “level playing field.”
Stan Cowan, RS, with the Department of Family and Community Medicine of the University of Missouri School of Medicine, said that there are “tons of economic studies out there showing that no restaurants or bars got hurt when smoke-free ordinances pass.” Credible studies are those that are independent of influential tobacco company money, he noted.
Cowan, a Sedalia native who lived here for 20 years, said that “We have an epidemic going on, and it somehow seems acceptable.”
Katy Trail Health CEO Chris Stewart said that Clean Air Sedalia’s goal is to make Sedalia a smoke-free city. “Sedalia has one of the highest averages in the state for COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulminary Disease). Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death, and about $400 million is spent anually to recruit new smokers,” Stewart said.
Referring to the proposed state tax increase on tobacco products last year that failed, Stewart lamented that “We are tremendously dispppointed in the law not passing,” because it would have targeted those who could least afford a price increase — teen smokers.
Health care for treating smoke-related problems cost Missourians $10.1 million to care for newborns, Stewart said. “That’s $585 per household, whether you smoke or not. Infants are incredibly vulnerable.” And nationally, about $2.24 billion is spent to treat smoking-related diseases annually.
Among those attending the meeting were two City Council members and Mayor Elaine Horn, as well as Bothwell CEO John Dawes, Pettis County Presiding Commissioner John Meehan and Pettis County Health Center Administrator JoAnn Martin. Photos by Randy Kirby, Sedalia News Journal.