Due to a rule passed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, all public housing became smoke free on July 30. This means that all living units and all indoor common areas in public housing and public housing administrative buildings are now smoke free. This is good news for the 83 percent of Wisconsinites who don’t smoke (2016 stats)! It’s also a step in the right direction for ALL property owners who can choose to make their properties smoke free, too.
Wisconsin has done well in ensuring that our public places are smoke free, and smoking rates are coming down, but initiation rates are, too, and that’s bad. Our youth are now starting to smoke much earlier, due in no small part to e-cigarettes. In fact, in Wisconsin, 13 percent of high school students currently use e-cigarettes, surpassing the use of conventional cigarettes.
And, a study of more than 2,500 teens from 10 public schools in Los Angeles that was recently published in the American Academy of Pediatrics indicated that ninth graders who use e-cigarettes and hookah are up to four times more likely to use marijuana in 11th grade. I won’t spend a lot of time here talking about the 14 or so Wisconsin counties putting “medical marijuana” on the ballot in November, but if that’s the real intent, let’s keep the conversation about medicine and what marijuana, not CBD oil, is really used for medicinally: stimulating appetite and reducing nausea. It MAY also decrease pain, inflammation and muscle control problems, but there’s not enough evidence to support those claims. And that’s it. All other claims are outright false or “one time at band camp” accounts.
E-cigarettes (vapes, Juuls, whatever you call them) aren’t safe either. They contain high levels of formaldehyde and diacetyl, chemicals harmful to the human body. Further, the secondhand aerosol we nonsmokers are subjected to can contain nicotine, ultrafine particles, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals. This means that, while we’ve come to expect clean indoor air, e-cigarette use threatens this standard and makes enforcement confusing. But remember that all owners and operators — property and other businesses, too — can, and arguably, should, rule their spaces e-cigarette-free, too!
September is Recovery Month (don’t forget to attend the Rally for Recovery 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 22 in Library Park), and in the big picture, here’s another reason tobacco cessation is important: a meta-analysis of 19 studies found that cessation interventions provided during addictions treatment were associated with a 25 percent increased likelihood of long-term abstinence from alcohol and other drugs.
Help is available! The KRW (Kenosha-Racine-Walworth) Tobacco-Free Coalition can provide smoke-free signage, tips and other resources, and the Wisconsin Quit Line is available to anyone who wants to quit! Call 800-QUIT-NOW. And, if you want more information or to be more involved, contact Tobacco-Free Coordinator Yazlyn Perez at firstname.lastname@example.org or through our Facebook page at KRW Tobacco-Free Coalition.
Guida Brown is executive director of the Hope Council on Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse Inc.