Tuesday, April 03, 2001

Health campaign launched

Coalition aims to accelerate public response

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        As he boarded a crowded airport tram with his friends, the unsuspecting young man lit a cigarette.

        His fellow passengers stared at him. The man with the cigarette demanded to know what they were looking at.

        “Someone said, "You're not supposed to smoke here,'” said Mike Kuntz, an American Lung Association employee who was a passenger on that Las Vegas airport tram two months ago.

        “Before you knew it, everyone who was sandwiched on that tram with him started telling him to put out his cigarette. The pressure on him became intense. He cussed a little bit, but in the end, he listened to the group, and he put out his cigarette.”

        These days, the uneasy coexistence between smokers and nonsmokers is heating up, as the two groups share space in airports, restaurants, and other public places.

New subtle message
               In Northern Kentucky, health educators know aggressive tactics, such as those used against the smoker in the airport, are not always effective.

        Instead of relying on strong-arm tactics, the Tobacco Prevention Coalition of Northern Kentucky is launching a widespread, but low-key, public information campaign this week on the dangers of secondhand smoke. The $72,400 campaign is funded with part of the $251,000 in tobacco settlement funds that the health department received this fiscal year for its tobacco prevention and control program.

        Through a series of print ads, radio and cable TV spots - and the distribution of 2,000 baby bibs asking, “Who's Smoking With You?” - the coalition hopes to convince residents of the state with the nation's second-largest smoking population that other people's cigarettes can be hazardous to those around them.

        Made up of groups involved in tobacco control, the coalition includes representatives from Northern Kentucky schools, businesses and health organizations.

        “Kentucky's one of only a few states that doesn't prohibit smoking in places like daycare centers,” said Stephanie Creighton, senior health educator for the Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Department. “We want to convey the message that secondhand smoke is hazardous to others, especially children. But at the same time, we don't want to turn smokers off, because that's who we're trying to reach in our campaign.”

Kentucky is smokin'
               The issue of secondhand smoke is especially relevant in Kentucky, coalition members say, because the Bluegrass State ranks second in the nation — behind Nevada — in the percentage of smokers and smoking-related deaths.

        Kentucky women also smoke during pregnancy at nearly double the national rate, and nearly half of the Commonwealth's nonsmoking middle and high-school students have told University of Kentucky pollsters that they live with someone who smokes.

        The campaign's print ads are from the perspective of a mother urging her father not to smoke around the grandchildren, a teacher telling a parent that she knows her daughter comes from a smoking household because of her frequent illnesses, a child proclaiming she loves her mom but hates her smoking; and a smoker who relates how he won't risk his kids' health by smoking around them.

        “Campaigns like (these) are complicated in Kentucky because so many people see them as an affront to their livelihood,” said Mr. Kuntz, the director of education and advocacy for the American Lung Association of Kentucky.

        “But the truth of the matter is, things change. We know that tobacco has an uncertain future, and we need to start preparing for it.”

Everyone “smokes” it
               Other people's cigarette smoke not only gets in your eyes, the coalition maintains, it gets into your lungs, your ears and your throat. The American Lung Association's statistics show that children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to suffer ear infections, asthma attacks, pneumonia, bronchitis and other lung diseases.

        To get that message across and not offend the target group, the coalition tested its logo, tagline and ads on focus groups of smokers.

        One of the focus groupparticipants was Ruth Coyle, a three- to four-packs-a-day smoker from Melbourne, Ky. who has smoked for nearly 40 years.

        “I went in there kicking and screaming, but it really did wind up having a positive effect on me,” the 49-year-old retired bar owner said. “It made me think more about smoking around other people. I've never even asked if my smoking offends people, because I figured it was my legal right to do so.”

        What offends her most, Ms. Coyle said, is restaurants that purport to have smoking and nonsmoking sections separated by no more than a divider.

        “To me, that's not a true smoking section,” Ms. Coyle said. “It's not even a full wall. They need to install some type of smoke eaters or exhaust system, so they can please everybody. Otherwise, the smoke's getting into the air that everyone in that restaurant's breathing.

        “And I don't like being treated like a criminal.”

"Smoked' food a problemŮ
               As part of the coalition's campaign, the health department plans to publicize the names of Northern Kentucky restaurants that are smoke-free.

        Some establishments, such as Schneider's Sweet Shop in Bellevue, and Graeter's Ice Cream in Newport and Fort Mitchell, prohibit smoking because it affects the taste of their product, while other restaurateurs say a smoke-free policy is simply good for business.

        Recently, the health department began asking restaurant owners during annual inspections to indicate what percentage of their seats are smoke-free.

        From that information, it has compiled a list of 38 restaurants — mostly fast-food establishments — that are smoke-free, and it hopes to add others through future inspections or phone calls from restaurant owners.

        “That's a wonderful idea,” said Dr. Malcolm Adcock, health commissioner for Cincinnati. “We haven't compiled such a list at this point, but it would certainly be something we could do in the course of our annual inspections.”

Cincinnati a leader
               In the Tristate, Cincinnati set an example in 1985, when it became the second city in the Midwest — after Minneapolis — to pass a law restricting smoking in most public places. Under the law, Cincinnati hospitals and restaurants were required to provide non-smokers with special sections or rooms.

        In Kentucky, Joe Bologna's became the first full-service Lexington restaurant to go smoke-free three years ago. Today, nearly half of the restaurants in that city are smoke-free.

        “For me the choice to go smoke-free was a business decision,” said Mr. Bologna, a former smoker who estimates 95 percent of his customers don't smoke. “We do a good family business, and I've always felt that secondhand smoke was dangerous.”

        At Chez Nora in Covington, owner Jimmy Gilliece is adding a nonsmoking addition to his restaurant in response to customer requests. The two-story nonsmoking section — scheduled to open in early May — will be in a separate building from the current restaurant and will have its own HVAC system.

        “I'm a smoker,” Mr. Gilliece said. “But I understand that some people want to dine in a nonsmoking environment, especially at dinner.”

        Two years ago, Harry Stephens opened what is believed to be Northern Kentucky's only full-service, smoke-free restaurant.

        As customers enter Harry's Hometown Diner in Alexandria's Village Green Shopping Center, a sign on the entrance to the 1950s-era eatery proclaims, “We are a smoke-free diner.”

        “In the beginning, I got a lot of flak,” Mr. Stephens said. “Smokers said I was discriminating against them, and some said they'd never come back.”

        Since then, however, Mr. Stephens said he has served “a significant number of smokers” who are willing to temporarily give up their habit.

        “We have a great deal of customers who come in and say, "We don't want to sit near the smoking section,” the 54-year-old restaurant owner said. “We say, "That's good, because our smoking section is outside.”'


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