By Lorraine Lathen
During the holiday season, many of us look forward to giving something special to those we love and even to help out a stranger. We take time to find out what’s on our loved ones’ Christmas lists, and some of us go through great lengths—like camping outside of a store—to get those special items. But what if we could give a gift that goes well beyond the temporary pleasures of a material item?
The Smoke-free air law was certainly a huge stride in protecting Wisconsinites from the harmful affects of secondhand smoke. But what’s next for building healthier lifestyles in our communities? Wisconsin’s law, which took effect July 5th of 2010, protects citizens in public but not in private. Therefore, as one next step to creating healthier lifestyles, we can create smoke-free living spaces. The holiday season is a great time to start embracing smoke-free lifestyles. What better gift to give than to protect those you love from secondhand smoke? Smoke-free living spaces include homes and cars and even traveling choices. A smoke-free home is healthier, but its benefits go beyond physical wellness. Smokefree homes smell better, are easier to clean and are easier to sell. Your smoke-free home will also be more pleasant for guest because most people hate being around secondhand smoke—even for a little while. But one of the biggest benefits of a smoke-free home is that it makes quitting smoking easier. Indeed, creating a smoke-free living space can truly be a huge step in someone’s cessation process.
While the best way to protect your family from secondhand smoke is to quit, even smokers can protect those around them. Anyone can create a smoke-free home, and here’s how. First, you’ll need to remove all smoking paraphernalia. Next, you’ll want to stock up on healthy alternatives to smoking like low calorie or sugar-free gum or sliced fresh fruits or vegetables. Once you’ve set up your smoke-free environment, you’ll want to tell everyone (family, friends and caregivers) to keep it that way.
Post a “Smoke-free Home” sign on your outer doors and within your home. This will save you from having to tell people one at a time. Have all smokers in the household (including you if you smoke) sign a pledge to not smoke inside your home. Be polite but firm. If people must smoke, make sure they do so outside and away from your home. Thank everyone for helping you keep your home smoke-free, and be sure to let him or her know you are rejecting the tobacco smoke and not the smoker.
It is important to note that moving to another room within the house, opening the window or using a fan or filter is not protecting people from secondhand smoke. Keeping your home smoke-free, even when no one is around, is important because secondhand smoke lingers long after the cigarette has been put out, and thirdhand smoke residue remains on your walls, upholstery and floors.
Creating a smoke-free environment takes time and hard work because you have to get everyone to agree, but keep working towards your goal because you’ll be doing something important.
Not only can you enjoy the benefits of smoke-free environments where you live, work and enjoy entertainment, but you can also enjoy them when you travel. Rent a smoke-free rental car (be sure to request a 100 percent smoke-free vehicle), and ask for a smokefree hotel room when you book your stay.
Living a smoke-free lifestyle is a great gift to yourself and to those you love. And if you smoke, it’s a great way to begin the process of quitting. Moreover, it gives back to the community. Secondhand smoke is a killer. Each year, roughly 750 Wisconsinites die from secondhand smoke, maternal smoking and fires caused by cigarettes.
So this season, give the gift of smoke-free living spaces. But don’t let it end December 31st or when the excitement over the New Year wears off. Maintain it for a lifetime.
Lorraine Lathen is president of Jump at the Sun Consultants, LLC (JATSC) and project director for the Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network (WAATPN). JATSC convenes the WAATPN.