Weekend aims at smoking awareness

Published 6:00 am Sunday, January 14, 2007

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Mississippi. It costs Mississippians more than $264 million each year to treat tobacco-related diseases through the Medicaid program alone.

Mississippi loses more than $1.41 billion in productivity each year because of tobacco-related diseases. Nearly 4,700 Mississippians die each year as a result of tobacco use. But there is good news. All of this can be prevented. And one organization is calling upon a higher power to help.

The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi is encouraging churches and other faith-based organizations to highlight the importance of tobacco education and prevention during the second annual Smoke-Free Sabbath. According to data compiled by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, more than 69,000 Mississippi children who are alive today will die early from a tobacco related disease.

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Smoke-Free Sabbath, this weekend, is an opportunity for people of faith to jointly express their concern for the health and well-being of the people of Mississippi. It is an occasion of prayer, congregational awareness, and a call to action for persons of faith.

“Comprehensive tobacco prevention saves lives, and it saves every taxpayer money by reducing the burden of tobacco-related health care costs,” said Sandra Shelson, executive director of The Partnership. “Our children deserve the promise of a tobacco-free future. Smoke-Free Sabbath is a wonderful opportunity to empower faith-based organizations to educate entire congregations about the harmful effects of tobacco use, as well as steps that Mississippians can take as individuals, communities and as a state to reduce tobacco use and protect people from the dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke.”

The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi provides free worship resources that organizations can use for Smoke-Free Sabbath Observances.

Local Community/Youth Partnership program directors are available to assist churches and other organizations that wish to take part in this event.

Please contact Mary Lucas, Program Director at 601-446-7036, or visit www.healthy-miss.org. to obtain the faith-based materials.

Mary Lucas is the program director for the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi.