July 14, 2006

Be Our Guest / Karla Seegas

Tobacco use continues to be serious health problem
for many Hoosiers

In your recent “Family Health Supplement” in the June 16 issue, I was disappointed to see only a one-sentence reference to tobacco use. This says to me that The Criterion sends a message that tobacco use is not a serious health problem.

In Indiana, the nation and the world, tobacco use remains the No. 1 cause of preventative death, disease and needless suffering. Every day, 27 Hoosiers die from smoking-related diseases. Indiana has the second highest smoking rate in the country.

As Catholics, we are called to minister to the poor. Of those adults in Indiana who have not earned a high school diploma, one out of two is a smoker.

Internal tobacco documents were required to be released as a result of the lawsuit between several attorney generals and the tobacco companies during the 1990s. These documents show that the tobacco industry preys on the poor.

As Christians, I believe we need to shed light on what these companies are doing to addict and kill those who are the least able to protect their own health.

What can Catholics do?

First, if you do not want your children or grandchildren to smoke, then quit smoking. There are resources in every county of Indiana to help you. Call the Indiana Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Second, support smoke-free worksites, restaurants and entertainment venues. Every worker deserves a smoke-free working environment. Those less fortunate often work in the very establishments that are not smoke-free. Their health is no less precious than the office worker. Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals. More than 60 of those chemicals are known to cause cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anyone with heart disease should avoid more than 30 minutes exposure in smoky environments.

In June, the U.S. Surgeon General released a report on secondhand smoke. His conclusion was that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Third, make smoke-free issues a part of your parish’s health ministry. There are resources available through faith organizations to reduce Indiana’s tobacco use rates. You can find out about this organization by calling 317-472-1055.

(Karla Sneegas is the executive director for Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation, the state agency responsible for Indiana’s comprehensive tobacco control program. She is a member of St. Christopher Parish in Indianapolis.) †



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