Presently considered a smoke-free workplace -- where people are not allowed to smoke inside the facility -- the Bartow County Health Department's future designation will prohibit individuals from using all tobacco products inside and outside the building at 100 Zena Drive, Cartersville.
"We know that tobacco is cancer-causing as well as [smokers'] second-hand smoke, so we just wanted to create an environment that was tobacco free," said Lisa Greeby, health services program manager for Northwest Georgia Public Health. "On the health department campus, nobody [will be able to] smoke or use spit tobacco while they're there -- it's indoors and outdoors. The law already [covers] indoors. The Smokefree Air Act already prohibits smoking on the inside ... but now we are taking it [further, becoming] a tobacco-free campus to encourage people not to use tobacco products, especially [with us] being a health facility."
Underlining the importance of promoting a tobacco-free environment, Greeby said the smoking prevalence rate or the number of people smoking in Bartow and its region are higher than the state's statistics.
"They're just starting to do research about the spit tobacco prevalence rate -- but the smoking prevalence rate in the state of Georgia is 20 percent. Bartow is 28 percent. Our health district is 27 percent. So one of the strategies that we look at to try to reduce that rate is getting tobacco-free policies put in place," Greeby said, referring to implementing these policies throughout the community, as far as businesses and hospitals, noting that Cartersville Medical Center is a tobacco-free campus. "... When I went with Dr. [Wade] Sellers this first quarter to the board of health [meeting March 23] and I pulled data from the Department of Education's Student Health Survey and for Bartow County Schools -- I didn't do Cartersville City Schools I just did the Bartow County School System -- 89 percent of the students who smoked responded that they started smoking by the age of 16.
"The survey is given to 2,254 students [who are] sixth, eighth, 10th, 12th-graders and of those that responded there was 203 of them that said that they used tobacco products within the last 30 days. So then those 203 [individuals were] asked, 'At what point did you start smoking?' and they said that, 'By the age of 16 they were smoking,'" she said about the 2009-2010 survey. "Generally you can relate education [to smoking use]. The more education people have, the more intelligent they are about the dangers of tobacco. So that goes back to encouraging students to stay in school and to graduate from high school, to get a secondary education of sorts because then they understand the dangers that are related with tobacco use."
If a person is caught violating the tobacco-free policy, Bartow County Health Department employees will inform them of the rule, as well as present them with literature about The Georgia Tobacco Quit Line and the dangers of smoking. Georgia smokers, who are 13 and older, are encouraged to call the Quit Line at 1-877-270-STOP to receive free counseling, research materials and referral services.
According to Quit Line's brochure "Quitting Takes Practice," "A few smokers achieve abstinence in an initial quit attempt. More than 70 percent of the 50 million U.S. smokers have tried to quit, and 46 percent of smokers try to quit each year. Tobacco dependence is an addiction where you may face periods of relapse and remission.
"More than 11,000 people die in Georgia every year from tobacco-related illnesses. In spite of these chilling statistics, 23 percent of Georgia adults smoke. An estimated 30,000 Georgia children begin smoking every year and another 10,000 begin to use spit tobacco."