Protecting your child from secondhand smoke

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DENVER — It’s hard to kick the habit, but more than 4,000 people die from smoking-related illnesses in Colorado each year.

That’s more than from alcohol, car accidents and crime combined. As many as 300,000 kids develop respiratory problems as a result of breathing in secondhand smoke.

Now, a new campaign is hoping to change that. You may have seen the billboards around town emphasizing a strong message, “Kids are smoke free zones.”

Dr. William Burman, Director of Denver Public Health says, “Secondhand smoke increases the risk that a child will develop asthma and increases the risk a child with asthma will end up in the emergency room.”

Campaign organizers said they realize it can take some time to quit smoking, but while a parent is working their way toward that goal, there’s no reason why they can’t start protecting their kids right away.

Julie Lonborg, Chief Communications Officer for Denver Health said, “I think if we educate them so they know what to do most parents will do it. As a mom, I try to do everything and I know others will as well.”

Stephen Secrist, a father of three, is supporting the campaign. He smoked for 30 years and is still trying to quit. He says he wants everyone to know that smoking around kids is something that should be out of the question adding, “At some point in your life you became addicted to smoking, your kids don’t have that choice when they’re around you and your smoking.”

Medical experts at Denver Public Health say it’s important to bust the myths about secondhand smoke. Dr. Burman says, “It is just not good enough to roll down windows, smoke near the door, use an air freshener, none of those things work.”

In fact, if a child can smell smoke at all they are being exposed to dangerous chemicals that can adversely affect their respiratory system.

If your child has been exposed to secondhand smoke, it’s important to know the signs that he or she may be developing health problems.  If they are coughing and wheezing, get them to a doctor immediately. Doctors say the most important thing to keep in mind is that it’s never too late to stop smoking.

Help reaching that goal is available, but the time to start protecting your kids is now. For more information about how to protect your child from secondhand smoke visit  www.IAmASmoke-FreeZone.org .

For information on how to kick your smoking habit and start living a healthier life, visit the American Cancer Society’s website at  http://www.cancer.org/healthy/stayawayfromtobacco/guidetoquittingsmoking/guide-to-quitting-smoking-how-to-quit and  http://www.tobaccofreeco.org/resources/quit-resources .

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