Smoke-free zones are safety zones for some

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The first question I get asked by many of the folk who come to my tobacco cessation groups is if I have ever been a smoker. No, I have not; and, I am always honest with them about this. But, what they don’t know is the reason. I was diagnosed with asthma at four after having been hospitalized several times, getting pneumonia repeatedly, as well as bronchitis, having to exist under a tent-like structure with a vapor machine drinking a concoction of crushed ice and paregoric just to breath. This was back in the day before of inhalers and asthma medications being taken daily. My how things have changed. As a child, secondhand smoke was enough to send me to the hospital. Many do not realize the effect secondhand smoke has on children, but with smaller lungs that are developing permanent damage can be caused. Seeing the long-term health effects, the distress on children with chronic health conditions such as cystic fibrosis and asthma, and the costs associated with the health concerns, it is no surprise that action was taken to help protect those most vulnerable. Enter Act 135.

What is Act 135? Have you heard of it? Working in the tobacco field I have been graciously sent information explaining the Act from colleagues across the state. This is a good thing as I have a hard time keeping up with all the changes, especially living on the border of three states with all their own rules. But it occurred to me that most folks do not have this network of colleagues keeping them up to date on the latest changes in the law, when they take effect, what the fine might be, etc.

As of July 1st, 2014, when you see someone pulled over, do you assume speeding? I must admit usually this is my first thought and am grateful I am not the one sitting there waiting for the ticket. Another possibility is that smoking was occurring in the motor vehicle while it was being occupied by children in a car seat or booster seat (required for children 8 years old and younger). This is now prohibited under Act 135. Not only that but it is a primary offense which means you can be pulled over and issued a citation even if no other violations have been committed. The fine for smoking in a car with a child 8 or younger is up to $100! Opening the window does not cut it. Spread the word. I know I wouldn’t want to take the monetary risk or jeopardize the health of my child: and most parents, including smokers, are in agreement and put their children’s health first. The folks I work with amaze me with their efforts in trying to deal with such a strong addiction: most don’t smoke in the car with their children and for that I commend them. It’s hard!

Another thing that you may not know is that smoke stays on your clothing and in your hair for about 20 minutes after you stop smoking? If you have small children or are around adults with breathing issues (COPD for example), just by being around them right after smoking you can be dangerously affecting their health. When someone with asthma or COPD coughs or shows signs of difficulty breathing after being around smoke, it isn’t to be passive aggressive or rude. It is because the smoke causes a physical reaction which makes it difficult to breathe. If you smoke and are with someone who may fit these categories, it would help them greatly to keep this in mind. We truly appreciate it.

Also, if you would like help quitting smoking, there are many resources available. There are two classes a week at BMH for those wishing to quit smoking or using chew tobacco: Wednesdays from 9 to 10 a.m. or 5-6 p.m. Classes and nicotine replacement therapy (patches and gum) is available and free for Vermont residents: you can call 802-251-8456 for information. If online or phone services are more for you, contact 802Quits, contact your local Vermont Department of Health or Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition.

Terri Kneipp is the Regional Tobacco Coordinator for the Brattleboro Health Service Area at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital having worked in the field of tobacco cessation for 11 years. She is also a member of the Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition, Greater Falls Connection and the Community Health Team at BMH. "Matters of Substance" is a collaborative column of the BAPC. Our goal is to develop, implement and support a comprehensive community effort to prevent and reduce alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse in Windham Southeast area. For more information or to join our prevention efforts, please visit the BAPC website at BrattleboroAreaPreventionCoalition.org or call 802-257-2175.


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