County targets tobacco use by young people
Randall Higgins Cleveland Bureau
CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Some community leaders here
are concerned about the rate of smoking among young people.
There are no specific figures for Bradley
County, but local American Cancer Society representative Vangie Ruth said 27
percent of Tennessee’s middle and high school students use tobacco in some form.
Patrick Reynolds, nationally known anti-smoking
advocate and grandson of tobacco company founder R.J. Reynolds, came here
Tuesday to speak to concerned adults and students.
His visit was arranged through the Bradley
County Health Council, Cleveland Community Hospital, Life Care Centers of
America and the American Cancer Society.
Ruth said several factors account for high tobacco use among Tennessee teens.
"Obviously, media portrayal of tobacco is a part
of the problem," she said. "And access to tobacco in Tennessee is definitely a
She said not all sales outlets are
strict about asking for ID before selling tobacco.
The local chapter of the American Cancer Society
and the Bradley County Health Council earlier this year asked both the Cleveland
City Council and the Bradley County Commission to support state legislation to
allow local control of tobacco sales.
currently has what are called pre-emptive laws, in which the state legislature
sets all tobacco laws.
"If we repeal pre-emption
so that we have local control over tobacco, we can pass some laws that will
impact youth in a positive way," Ms. Ruth said.
Several pre-emptive bills are already before the
legislature, she said, and more are expected by the time it convenes in January.
Jodi Riggins, chairman of the Bradley County
Health Council, said city and county government have approved resolutions
supporting repeal of pre-emption. So have other governments in the area,
including Hamilton County and the city of Athens, Tenn., she said.
"There are 44 signed resolutions from
municipalities and counties across the state," Ms. Riggins said. "That makes up
about 55 percent of the population."
Smoking-related illnesses affect local health
and the economy, she said.
The Health Council
already has organized strong programs dealing with breast cancer and public
access to health care, and it is concerned about children’s health issues, she
In his speech Tuesday at Life Care Centers
of America headquarters, Mr. Reynolds said apathy hinders attempts to reduce
Mr. Reynolds, who is not an heir to
the family business, founded a national organization aimed at ending tobacco
use. Today’s children need to hear the anti-tobacco message, he said, as well as
messages about using alcohol and drugs.
the top items on the agenda of the health care community is to repeal
pre-emption," Mr. Reynolds said. "So at least local citizens in Chattanooga or
Cleveland could ban smoking in restaurants and bars if they wanted to."
Citing a growing number of smoke-free workplaces
and public spaces, Mr. Reynolds called public smoking bans "an idea whose time
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