To the point

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SMOKE FREE. IT’S THE BUZZ word now around the country, and more and more communities are officially becoming smoke free. Many restaurants around the country are now smoke free, and the city of Cincinnati recently voted to be smoke free.

Close to home, it was noted last week that the entire campus of Indiana University Southeast is now smoke free, joining other Indiana University campuses in prohibiting smoking. IUPUI in Indianapolis is the largest smoke free campus in the state, with others sure to follow.

Earlier this year, following a Switzerland County sports team to New Washington High School for an athletic event, I was intrigued by a sign on the wall that New Washington was a “Tobacco Free Campus”.

Inquiring to a school official, I was told that smoking and other tobacco products were no longer allowed on any part of the school campus. That meant that fans attending basketball games couldn’t step outside the gym for a smoke during halftime; nor could someone dip a little snuff or chew a little tobacco in or outside of the school.

“Our janitors used to find too many soda bottles half filled with tobacco spit,” I remember the official saying.

Have you ever happened upon a bottle of tobacco spit? It’s not a nice thing to find – even if it’s your own.

Tobacco products are prohibited here at the Switzerland County School Corporation by students and inside the school facilities. Adults attending events can still go outside and grab a smoke without a problem by simply grabbing a pass out.

But the question here is, should our school corporation follow those like New Washington and make our entire campus tobacco free? Should we send a message that part of educating our young people is to help them understand the dangers of tobacco products?

It wouldn’t be an easy decision, but I believe that it is one that needs to be made. We need to project a belief that harmful activities on school property will not be allowed.

For those people who are longtime smokers, I sympathize with your struggle. Many people want to quit, but simply can’t. They’ve tried everything from patches to gum to hypnosis to “cold turkey”, but nothing works.

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, especially for those people who began smoking before the Surgeon General presented his findings on smoking in 1964. By the time that the full story was told, millions of people were already hooked.

But in an average year, 400,000 Americans die from cigarette smoking. There are five million smoking-related deaths each year, that’s one out of every five. It may be cancer. It may be something else.

But it’s killing people.

A smoker lives an average of 12 years less than a non-smoker. It’s not days or months - it’s years.

Among women, more die from smoking-related disease than breast cancer.

But is it too late?

After one year off of cigarettes, the risk of heart disease by a former smoker drops by more than half. After 10 years, the risk of lung cancer drops by more than half.

If you’re a smoker and you leave 12 years less, there is no time to waste getting started on being cigarette-free for 10 years.

This past weekend many county residents participated in the Switzerland County Relay for Life event. It is designed to raise money for cancer research, and there has also been some controversy about exactly how much of the money actually gets to research facilities.

But regardless, the event at its very core brings attention to those people who are battling cancer. It keeps the fight at the forefront of our minds, and it challenges us to work in a small or large way to continue the battle to find a cure.

But until that cure is found, each of us needs to help our friends and family members who are smokers that they can reduce cancer by simply stopping what they’re doing.

Figure out a way and quit. Get the help you need and stop. Find a buddy. Find something.

It isn’t lost on me that the “Relay for Life” is held at the high school track.

If we are truly going to curb this problem, a great way to do it is to better educate and inform our young people about the danger before they get started.

And a great way to send that message would be for the Switzerland County School Board to officially declare that the entire school campus, from the elementary schools to the middle school to the high school to the administration building – were all declared to be smoke free – inside and out.

It may not be a popular message immediately, but I believe that it is the correct one in the short and long term.