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Phillips to address problems with smoking

DEMOPOLIS- Choke, cough, cough, cough.

That’s what most non-smokers do if they encounter tobacco smoke. But if Niko Phillips, tobacco coordinator for the Alabama Department of Public Health, has her way, non-smokers will be able to live smoke free.

“Don’t think of it as a smoking ban,” Phillips said. “Think of it as a clean air issue.”

Phillips said she is not asking people not to smoke, she is just asking them not to smoke inside public places.

“For example, many restaurants have smoking and non-smoking sections but the divider that separates the two allows smoke to disseminate at will,” she said. “Having a non-smoking section in a restaurant is like having a non-chloride section in a swimming pool. It doesn’t exist.”

According to Phillips more than 53,000 non-smokers die from exposure to secondhand smoke each year, making it the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S.

“Ultimately, secondhand smoke is not filtered,” she said. “Smokers only get 15 percent of the smoke and non-smokers get the rest.”

Which is why Phillips is hosting the first Demopolis coalition meeting September 13 in hopes to create a safe, healthy and tobacco-free community. The meeting will be held in a classroom at the Bryan Whitfield Memorial Hospital at 10:30 a.m. and is open to all who are interested.

“I will just give a brief update on advocacy and the harmful effects of second-hand smoke,” Phillips said. “Then I will leave it up to the citizens to decide if they are ready to go to City Hall to propose regulation of smoking in public places.”

Phillips formed the same coalition along with a youth group, ages 8-18, in Selma where a smoking ordinance was passed in May. She also hopes to begin a youth group in Demopolis.

“It was successful here so I decided to go into nearby cities,” Phillips said. “I’m bringing it to Demopolis because if the hospital went smoke free and took the initiative, the city might do it too.”

Attempts to increase smoke-free environments include a Kick Butts Day, The Great American Smokeout and World No Tobacco Day.

In April, the Alabama Department of Public Health began a tobacco quitline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

It is a 24-hour answering service where licensed professional counselors answer questions about the cessation process and help callers develop a plan for quitting.

Live counseling is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The quitline also provides referrals to local cessation services, education materials, and nicotine replacement coupons.

For more information, contact Niko Phillips at (334) 874-2550.