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Teens Promote Smoke-Free Restaurants
By Raymond Castile - published in the North County Journal on April 18, 2008.
Members of NCADA's TATU (Teens Against Tobacco Use) program stage a "positive picket" April 2 outside the Bob Evans restaurant on Zumbehl Road in St. Charles to promote the smoke-free restaurant.
Teenagers “kicked butts” this month to fight public smoking.
“I hate smoking with a passion,” said Heather McGhay, 18. “I think it’s disgusting. People who smoke – you can tell there is something different about them. They look older. They have bad breath.”
The St. Charles High School senior joined approximately 15 students from her school and St. Charles West High School to stage a “positive picket” April 2 outside the Bob Evans restaurant on Zumbehl Road in St. Charles.
All Bob Evans restaurants in Missouri went smoke-free on March 16. Nationwide, 80 percent of Bob Evans restaurants are smoke-free.
The students showed their support for the policy change by holding up signs with phrases such as, “Eat here! All of the taste, none of the smoke.” McGhay’s sign read, “Food and smoke don’t mix.” McGhay said she wanted smoking banned inside all restaurants.
“If you want to have a smoking section, have it outside,” she said.
The picket marked the 13th annual Kick Butts Day, a nationwide event organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Based in Washington, D.C., the organization uses education and advocacy programs to reduce youth tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.
The teens were members of Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU), a program of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. TATU trains high school students to become anti-smoking activists. The teens visit elementary and middle schools to teach younger children how to avoid tobacco use. They also participate in anti-smoking community projects, like Kick Butts Day.
Chris Weissler, 18, a St. Charles High senior, said most of the passing motorists on Zumbehl seemed supportive, waving and smiling at the teens. The only negative response came from a middle-aged man who flipped the kids off, he said.
Weissler said he thought people should be able to smoke at home, outdoors and in cars, but not in restaurants. Weissler said he works at a restaurant that does allow smoking, and the secondhand smoke bothers him.
“It’s annoying to have someone smoking while you’re trying to have a good meal,” he said.
Weissler said he thinks one-fourth of high school kids are regular smokers. Weissler said he does not smoke because he cares about his body and his image.
Erin Knaeble, 18, said she also avoids tobacco.
“I don’t smoke because I don’t want to die 20 years earlier than I need to,” Knaeble said.
The St. Charles West senior said he believed secondhand smoke was harmful to everyone who ate in a restaurant that allowed smoking.
“If people eat in restaurants, they don’t want to smell like smoke when they leave,” Knaeble said.
“Food tastes better if there’s no smoke,” said Lindsay Pape, 18, a St. Charles West senior.
Pape said all restaurants should go smoke-free. Having smoking and non-smoking sections is not good enough, she said, because smoke would travel throughout the restaurant.
Drew Schuster, general manager of the Bob Evans on Zumbehl, said the restaurant went smoke-free to better fit its family image and to give its customers a safer and more comfortable environment.
“The majority of the response has been positive,” Schuster said. “We lost a couple customers, but also gained some. We have regulars that we know are smokers, and they are still coming back.”
Bob Johnson, a prevention specialist for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, said Bob Evans’ decision showed a commitment to the safety of its employees as well as customers.
“If you work an eight-hour shift in a smoke-filled environment, that causes a lot of harm,” said Johnson, who helped organize the students’ picket.
Johnson said the council has brought the TATU program to 25 high schools in the St. Louis area during the last two years, training about 15 teens per school. Through presentations at elementary schools, those teens have reached about 10,000 children, he said.
“They are reaching kids in fourth, fifth and sixth grades, at the time most kids make the choice whether or not to smoke,” Johnson said.
The teens use games, hands-on materials and visual aids, including diseased pig lungs, to illustrate the health impact of smoking. They also serve as role models for children concerned about fitting in, Johnson said.
“Elementary kids hear from high school kids that most high school kids don’t smoke,” he said. “So they realize that, if they choose to be smoke-free, they are in the majority.”
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The preceding article was posted with permission from the North County Journal.
More information about NCADA's TATU program can be found on the Peer Programs page in our Prevention Services section.