The Milwaukee Community Journal’s Yearlong Health Focus
What That Means For African Americans
July 5 is a special day for Wisconsinites. It’s on that day that state residents will join the U.S. and several nations who have decided to make the environment safer for everyone.
On July 5, public accommodations such as bars and restaurants, will be totally “smoke free.” No longer will there be a “smoking” or “non-smoking” areas. Establishments will be 100% “non-smoking.” This was not an easy accomplishment by those of us who see smoking as unhealthy—for the smoker and non-smoker. I’m sure many people who are against the law are currently working to have it reversed.
Despite their efforts to have the law overturned, it’s important for the law proponents to put as much energy as possible on its implementation. It will be important for the community to know what the law is and what it is not. The Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, Inc (BHCW), the organization I work for, has collaborated at both the local and state levels with other organizations for over 10 years to get this legislation passed.
Heart/lung disease and cancer are at the top of the list of conditions that African Americans die the most from.
Within those conditions, tobacco has been identified as the number one cause of these diseases. This can occur by directly smoking or by what is known as “secondhand smoke”.
It has been scientifically proven that persons who breathe in the products released by smokers into the air can be affected as if they had smoked the products themselves. Over 1,000 people die from secondhand smoke in the city of Milwaukee every year.
Recently, the term “third-hand smoke” has begun to come into the discussion. There has been evidence that the same cancer producing products found in tobacco and secondhand smoke has been found on the clothing of nonsmokers.
I know that some feel that the ability to smoke a legal product should not be restrained in any setting. However, as I said in a Public Service Announcement about five years ago: “If you want to smoke and die that is your right. But it is not your right to take me with you.”
This law is about smoking in public places, not your home or your car. If I had my way, it would be private places as well.
When you look at the rates of cancer, lung disease, heart disease, asthma, and infant mortality in the African American community, how can you not want to eliminate smoking altogether?
So until that time, let’s celebrate life and the victories we have. It will be great to go into public places and not have to go past the smoking areas to get to the non-smoking areas. This is a giant step toward improving the lives of everyone in this state, especially those most at risk.
Next week, I will give more details on how the tobacco companies have historically—and continue to—target our community.
One tobacco executive made the statement when asked if he smoked, he said “Oh no. We save that for the Black, the young and the stupid”. I will also provide more information about why it is so hard for us to quit smoking once we are addicted.
And believe me it is an addiction!