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Community forum addresses harm done by smoking

By By ANNA M. LEE Managing Editor
Citizens and leaders of Brewton and East Brewton gathered Thursday night at D.W. McMillan Memorial Hospital to discuss the damage smoking does to individuals and the whole community.
Pediatrician Marsha Raulerson brought to the discussion some startling facts about the effects of secondhand smoke on children.
For example, children with respiratory illnesses almost always live with a smoker, the leading cause of asthma in children is secondhand smoke, and smoking is the No. 1 cause of low birthweight in babies, she said.
Also at the forum, Spike Maxwell, who has been in the insurance industry for 21 years, spoke about the additional costs smokers pay for insurance and his own personal experiences with loved ones who smoked.
A respiratory therapist for 24 years, Lillian Heller is no stranger to the damage caused by smoking. She said that 85 percent of smoke produced by a cigarette is a particularly harmful form of smoke that contains smaller particles which reach deeper into a person's lungs and are harder to exhale.
Wendy Riley told the painful story of how her father -- who smoked two to three packs of cigarettes a day -- died of tongue and laryngeal cancer after a very long battle. She said her father had begun smoking at the age of nine.
Riley said her experience with her father has turned her into a hater of smoking. "I hope we can all work together, and I will do anything to make this a reality," she said of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Escambia County's efforts to encourage East Brewton and Brewton to a public smoking ban.
Thursday's forum was organized by Tina Findley, Tobacco Prevention and Control Coordinator with the Alabama Department of Public Health. Findley said the Coalition has collected 1,200 signatures of people in the area who support a smoking ban.