NEW ORLEANS -- Seven weeks after the launch of a statewide secondhand smoke education and awareness campaign, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals’ Tobacco Control Program is taking its message to Louisiana’s newspaper readers through a print advertising campaign and renewing its commitment to listen to Louisiana residents about secondhand smoke issues.
The media campaign, which kicked off Sept. 16 with the first of a series of radio advertisements, has started running a newspaper advertisement asking people to “Minimize the deadly effects of cigarettes. Smoke alone.” The ad will run in papers statewide through the end of 2003, with additional ads to be developed for next year.
“One of the easiest ways for people to reduce the dangers of secondhand smoke is to simply avoid smoking around others,” explained David W. Hood, secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals. “That means taking your cigarette outside, not smoking around your children and avoiding contact with others while you’re smoking.”
The focus of Louisiana’s Breathe Easy Bayou campaign is to educate people about the dangers of secondhand smoke and to offer helpful ways smokers and others can prevent secondhand smoke from harming the people they care about. The campaign’s Web site, www.BreatheEasyBayou.com, provides a resource for visitors to learn how secondhand smoke affects different populations of Louisiana, including children, pregnant women, business owners and restaurant and bar workers. To date, nearly 10,000 Louisiana residents have visited the site.
“We are trying to create a dialogue with Louisiana residents on this important public health issue,” Hood said. “To that end, we’re encouraging everyone to visit BreatheEasyBayou.com and tell us their story about secondhand smoke. We want to know how secondhand smoke affects them in their work, home and social life.”
In 2002 focus group discussions, Louisiana residents were only vaguely aware of the serious health consequences of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. For many focus group participants, secondhand smoke was nothing more than a “nuisance” that left unpleasant odors on clothes, in cars and in indoor environments.
The $250,000 campaign utilizes a non-confrontational, easy-going approach toward communicating the secondhand smoke message — particularly to smokers, who often are left feeling ostracized or persecuted because of their dependence to nicotine. The message of the campaign is “smoke is the enemy, not smokers.”
Secondhand smoke has been classified as a “Class A” cancer-causing agent by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the same classification given to asbestos. Exposure to secondhand smoke is known to cause lung cancer, aggravate asthma and contribute to a host of other diseases and afflictions. Currently, tobacco use is the leading cause of death in the United States.
Louisiana’s secondhand smoke educational campaign is in accordance with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Best Practices for Tobacco Control,” which recommends guidelines for states to confront the deadly effects of tobacco use. In addition to providing information about secondhand smoke, BreatheEasyBayou.com will provide information about the Louisiana Helpline, 1-800-LUNG-USA, where site visitors can go for even more information or smokers can go to help them learn how to quit using tobacco.
About Louisiana Tobacco Control Program The Louisiana Office of Public Health Tobacco Control Program began in 1993. The program is focused on environmental and policy change, providing community and statewide partnership grants and mini-grants to communities to coordinate community planning and capacity-building activities regarding tobacco prevention and control.