August Campaign Asks Parents to “Take It Outside” to Keep Smoke Away from Kids

For Immediate Release: August 22, 2003

Contact: Karen Garbarino
Vermont Department of Health

BURLINGTON—August 13, 2003—Vermonters are “taking it outside” as part of a month-long statewide campaign sponsored by the Vermont Department of Health to encourage parents to protect their children from secondhand smoke.

An estimated 700,000 office visits for ear infections, seven million missed school days and countless struggles with asthma are just some of the nationwide consequences for children from secondhand smoke.

The August campaign includes community coalition activities funded by the Vermont Department of Health, including the Bennington Area Stamp Out Coalition’s “Take It Outside” pledge campaign. Adults who smoke are given static decals for their cars that remind them of their pledge, a free car wash, and the chance to win a free car care kit at the end of the month. At Camel’s Hump Middle School in Richmond, the Chittenden East Community Partnership and Green Mountain Prevention Projects held a two-day orientation on Aug. 7-8 for students who will be attending Mount Mansfield Union High School. The event concluded with a potluck dinner with parents invited to discuss the “Take It Outside” campaign and other issues.

These community events are supported by a series of three radio ads airing across the state. In the ads, kids talk about some of the lessons learned from their parents:

“Kids soak up these messages from their parents,” said Dr. Paul Jarris, Vermont Commissioner of Health. “Unfortunately, if their parents smoke, kids can also soak up many of the 4,000 chemicals in secondhand cigarette smoke.”

The radio ads use humor to offer parents a key lesson from their children—that secondhand smoke can cause ear infections, asthma, and increase the number of days children will miss school.

“The August ‘Take It Outside’ campaign is part of an ongoing effort by the Vermont Department of Health to encourage parents to keep smoke away from their children,” Jarris said.

Trying to reduce harm by taking measures like opening windows or smoking in another room does little to protect babies, according to a new study published in the August 2 issue of the British Medical Journal. In their study, a total ban on smoking in the home was the only measure that had a significant impact on infant’s exposure to secondhand smoke.

“To reduce the number of ear, nose, and throat infections, as well as to decrease the chance of children having an asthma episode, parents are advised to keep their children as far away as possible from secondhand tobacco smoke,” noted Lewis First, M.D., chief of Pediatrics, Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, UVM College of Medicine. “If parents smoke, they are urged to do it outside the house and car. Or better yet, quit, in order to help keep their children from having those sick days.”

According to the Vermont Department of Health, 21 percent of Vermont households with children under age five still allow smoking in the home. Quitting smoking is one of the healthiest lifestyle changes a person can make, but it is also one of the most difficult. It takes most smokers five to seven attempts before they are able to quit successfully. Services such as the Vermont Quit Line are available to help Vermonters beat these odds. Vermonters who want to learn more can call the Vermont Quit Line toll-free at 1-877-YES-QUIT, or 1-877-937-7848.