The Smoke Free Mason County Coalition held a presentation at the Maysville Church of the Nazarene Thursday evening to promote a healthier lifestyle for the community.
A number of area residents attended the presentation to learn what they could do to help make Mason County smoke free.
Chloe Adams, senior at Mason County High School is an advocate for the STOP Coalition at her school. While she operated a booth before the presentation began to bring awareness to school bullying, part of her coalition also involves prevention of alcohol, drugs and tobacco use.
“Smoke free Kentucky,” Adams said, “I want that to happen. I think that’s really good, I think that’s a good movement to be behind.”
Pulmonologist Dr. Anthony Weaver spoke at the presentation about his experience in dealing with the effects of smoking. During the start of his career, he began to see a steady rise in patients with lung cancer due to smoking, something he didn’t expect would happen.
“In 1986, that’s about when the lung cancer epidemic, nationally, peaked,” Weaver said. “So I, who thought would be coming through and helping people to understand how to manage their blood pressure and their sugar, I was getting referred a whole bunch of people with abnormal chest x-rays who had lung cancer. I got to tell you, I was a brand new doctor, and I was totally unprepared for that. I felt like every morning I was stepping over dead bodies to get to work.”
Weaver recalled how hospitals during the 1980s were not smoke free, where the air quality was not healthy for patients as well as doctors. Only through the efforts of education and administrative actions in hospitals, did these places become smoke free.
According to research Weaver conducted on the area, Mason County, over the past three years, averaged around 12 overdose deaths per year. For each of those years, Weaver said, more than 20 people have died from smoking-related illnesses. In the state, between 7,000-9,000 people die from smoking-related diseases each year.
“We have a problem, we are number one in the nation in lung disease, we’re number one in the nation in lung cancer and we’re in the top 10 in heart diseases and stroke and all of these we know are affected by cigarette smoking,” Weaver said.
A common thought for many people is if a community goes smoke free, how will it impact the local economy. Weaver said his home town of Morehead, in Rowan County, is a smoke free community and banning smoking in the town has not made any lasting effects.
“Morehead still exists,” he said. “Morehead still has restaurants, Morehead still has bars. You have examples in your community of restaurants and organizations that serve liquor that survive even though, from a corporate standpoint, are smoke free. It works, communities survive.”
As for a solution for how to get Mason County to go smoke free, the answer isn’t exactly clear to determine; although from Adams’ standpoint, community involvement is a good start.
“The only way things are going to change is if people push themselves to make it happen,” she said