Most of us are thankful for food, football and family on Thanksgiving, but in Wisconsin, where asthma is more prevalent among African American youth as well as those living in poverty; clean air can be added to that list.
“None of my family members smoke anymore,” said Matthew Broaden, who suffers from asthma.
Broaden and his sisters, all members of the Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network (WAATPN) FACT group, helped their uncle quit by letting him know that his habit was damaging their lungs as well as his. FACT is Wisconsin’s youth led tobacco prevention movement and consists of 5,000 members from 30 groups which are spread across the state.
Nia Kamara, a member of the Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention and Poverty Network (WTPPN) FACT, is also on the group’s youth board. Nia said the greatest benefit of being on the board is being able to take a leadership role in reaching out to other youth to help them spread the word about the dangers of tobacco use.
One of the main messages she shares with teens is how damaging second hand smoke can be, especially to those with asthma.
“Secondhand smoke is one of the main triggers of asthma attacks,” Kamara said.
According to the CDC, exposure to environmental tobacco smoke is associated with adverse asthma related health outcomes. Citing dangers associated with exposure to secondhand smoke, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently proposed a rule to ban smoking in all of the nation’s 1.2 million public housing units. In a statement HUD Secretary Julian Castro wrote, “This proposed rule will improve the health of more than 760,000 children.”
Clear Gains, Wisconsin’s smoke-free housing initiative has been working with local property owners in recent years to help them implement similar policies here. James Hightower, a member of the WAATPN FACT group said his parents were among those who included a ban in their rental agreement as a result of Clear Gains.
“Tobacco products are not allowed on the premises,” Hightower said.
Matthew’s sister, Michelle Broaden, hopes for a day when that rule extends to all homes, but for now she said she’s just happy to be living in what she calls a “tobacco free zone” this Thanksgiving.
“Because nobody in my home smokes that increases the chance that we will get to spend many more Thanskgivings together,” she said.
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