Tobacco-free coalition renews grant

Published 10:43 am Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Mississippi Tobacco-Free Coalition of Warren and Claiborne Counties is working to make Vicksburg and the surrounding area smoke-free.

“They have a right to smoke, but at the same time, I have a right to breathe smoke-free air,” Program Director Vickie Bailey said.

The Mississippi State Department of Health’s Office of Tobacco Control has renewed the group’s community tobacco control grant. The grant money will be used to make a visible presence in Vicksburg.

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The coalition will make signs to educate the community of the hazards of tobacco use. They also give presentations in schools, churches, businesses, at civic clubs and to organizations.

The presentations give data and facts on what tobacco does to the body.

“When people know better, they do better, so the whole idea is to get the message to the people,” Bailey said.

Bailey wants to specifically see bars and casinos in the Vicksburg area become completely smoke-free. She is concerned for the employees of the casino having to breathe second-hand smoke to do their jobs. Her hope is Vicksburg becomes the first Mississippi community to ban smoking in casinos.

“Most of the businesses are smoke-free on their own,” Bailey said. “Any public government building is already smoke-free.”

Another place Bailey is looking to eradicate tobacco use is in apartment complexes. Second-hand smoke is a threat to residents who breathe the smoke through the air vents. She recently spoke at Stonewood Apartments on Mission 66 because they are going smoke-free.

“We’re hoping other multi-housing units will take notice,” Bailey said.

She sees herself as an advocate, especially for children. It doesn’t make sense to her, she said why someone would expose a child to second hand smoke but try to protect them from danger in other ways.

“You got the child in a seat belt but yet you’re smoking in the car, it’s an oxymoron,” Bailey said.

The coalition is composed of a board of businesspeople, healthcare professionals, elected officials and law enforcement officers who meet quarterly to be constructive in the community about tobacco awareness. The coalition is also on the Mayor’s Health Council.

For those interested in quitting smoking, Bailey recommends they call 1-800-Quit-Now. The quitline can coordinate with the person’s doctor to find the best method for each patient to use when quitting tobacco use like counseling, gum, patches or other methods.

“It’s not the people, it’s the smoke,” Bailey said.