UNC Creates Media Campaign Warning of Secondhand Smoke

Raising awareness of the health hazards of secondhand smoke is the goal of a new media campaign being undertaken by UNC in partnership with local programs in two North Carolina counties in opposite ends of the state – Buncombe in the west and Chowan in the east.

The campaign is the first of its kind in North Carolina, according to Dr. Adam Goldstein ’03 (MPH), associate professor of family medicine. It coincides with a recent report from the U.S. Surgeon General on diseases caused by smoking that observed that nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke are at risk for illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and breathing difficulty.

The N.C. Advisory Committee on Cancer Coordination and Control is funding the $40,000 effort, which the UNC School of Medicine’s department of family medicine is spearheading. The department is working with Project ASSIST in Buncombe County and with the Chowan Regional Health Care Foundation. Organizers hope eventually to expand the program statewide.

“We hope people will realize that to someone with breathing problems, involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke is as much a barrier to normal activity as three flights of stairs is to someone who can’t walk,” Goldstein said.

The theme of the campaign is “What Are You Breathing?” and was created to boost awareness of the toxic and carcinogenic chemicals released into the air by burning cigarettes.

“Secondhand tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, more than 60 of which are known to be toxic or to cause cancer,” Goldstein said. “It is responsible for more than 1,600 heart-disease deaths in North Carolina each year, 81 lung-cancer deaths and many other illnesses, including asthma and respiratory infections.”

“We hope ‘What Are You Breathing?’ messages will have a big impact on residents of Chowan County, and we are excited about being part of this campaign,” said nurse Jean Bunch, tobacco addiction specialist with Chowan’s nicoTEEN FREE WAY program. “Our desire is to create healthy, smoke-free environments for everyone . It is a win-win situation when North Carolinians begin to de-normalize tobacco use and view secondhand smoke as an environmental toxin.”

The media campaign includes newspaper ads and inserts, billboards, church bulletin inserts and flyers that list health effects of secondhand smoke, along with resources for more information about secondhand smoke and ways people can protect themselves, their families and their communities. A toll-free phone number, (866) 88-LUNGS, is available to direct callers to local resources in secondhand smoke prevention and smoking cessation. Information also is available on the Web.

“This is an exciting time,” Goldstein said. “We hope many North Carolina citizens will call to ask for more information and become involved in securing cleaner, healthier air in the places where they live, work and play. We already know people across North Carolina want smoke-free public places. This campaign will help them become more involved.”

NicoTEEN FREE WAY will highlight the “What Are You Breathing?” campaign at the Edenton Steamers-Peninsula Pilots baseball game on July 29 at 7 p.m. For free tickets, call Jean Bunch at (252) 482-6755. Baseballs, fans, stadium cushions and other incentives will be given away at the game.

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