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Smoke-free community events

Smoke-free the way

to go for community events

The negative effects of tobacco use are well documented. But the numbers are staggering.

According to the state Department of Human Services, during 2007 in Polk County:

* Some 108 people died from tobacco use.

* More than 2,100 people suffered serious illness caused by tobacco use.

* More than $17.7 million was spent on medical care for tobacco-related illnesses.

* And more than $17.8 million in productivity was lost due to tobacco-related deaths.

The impact of secondhand smoke is equally alarming.

A recent state survey noted that 89 percent of all Polk County adults -- smokers and nonsmokers alike -- believe that people should be protected from secondhand smoke. That's the impetus behind a new program being implemented by Polk County Community Tobacco Prevention Coordinator Randi Harris this summer to make several regional community events "smoke-free."

Summerfest in Dallas, the Sounds of Summer Concert Series in Dallas, National Night Out in Independence and Senior Day at the Polk County Fair in Rickreall will all prohibit smoking to ensure clean air for participants and attendees alike.

While a few people will feel that their personal rights are being infringed upon, we agree with the organizers of these events who are working with Harris to make their community celebrations healthy for all.

According to the American Lung Association, as few as 30 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke can impair coronary circulation in a nonsmoker, can increase the risk of heart disease among nonsmokers by as much as 60 percent, and nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are 20 to 30 percent more likely to develop lung cancer. Those are just a few of the reasons why banning smoking at community events is a good idea.

And as Harris stated: "There may not be cigarettes and smoke at Summerfest, Senior Day or Sounds of Summer, but there will definitely be as much fun and excitement for the whole family as in years past."

We couldn't agree more.

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