Several bars and restaurants in Sikeston have opted to take part in Thursday's national effort, the 18th Annual Great American Smokeout, to warn the public about the dangers of smoking tobacco and secondhand smoking.
Recently the Breathe Easy Southeast Missouri Coalition, which is aimed at raising awareness of secondhand smoke throughout Scott County, sent letters to every restaurant and bar in the Sikeston area, asking them to be smokefree for at least Great American Smokeout Day.
"A lot of the restaurant and bar owners we contacted were hesitant to go smokefree because of concern that their regular customers would not approve of them having a smokefree environment," noted Kim Heckemeyer, chair of Breathe Easy Southeast Missouri Coalition.
Among the businesses that agreed to go smokefree Thursday were Susie's Bake Shoppe, Pizza Inn, China Garden and El Bracero with many of the fast food restaurants already smokefree.
But Susie Kenedy, owner of Susie's Bake Shoppe in Sikeston, decided to turn her usually divided restaurant into a smokefree zone the entire week.
"Everyone knows it's Great American Smokeout Week so there haven't been any problems or complaints," Kenedy said.
Unlike most businessowners who decided not to participate, Kenedy doesn't feel like the smokefree policy is negatively affecting her business, she said, adding a lunch hour isn't that long to go without smoking.
As chair of the Breathe Easy Southeast Missouri Coalition, Heckemeyer said her job is educate the public that a smokefree environment is not bad for business, but rather good for business, she said.
"Communities that have gone smokefree have realized an increase in profits from restaurants and bars. It is a widely held misconception by bar and restaurant owners that if they go smokefree they will lose money, but this is just not case," Heckemeyer said.
According to the American Cancer Society, no independent study has proven that smoke-free laws negatively affect the bar industry. In a recent study that looked at the relationship between smokefree ordinances and bar revenues conducted in El Paso, Texas, by the Texas Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, researchers concluded the sales of alcoholic beverages were not affected by the ordinance. Similar results were found in Florida.
"However big a step it is for an employer to make the decision to go smokefree, it's better for them, better for their customers and better for their workers if they do it," noted Brenda Freed, public educator for the Scott County Health Department.
Over 4,000 chemicals are present in every breath of secondhand smoke and an eight-hour workshift of a nonsmoker who works in a no smokefree policy environment inhales enough secondhand smoke to equal a half a pack of cigarettes, the American Cancer Society reports. And at least 69 chemicals known to cause cancer are found in secondhand smoke.
"Secondhand smoke is dangerous, and studies have shown in restaurants that have gone smokefree, their workers are less sick so they have less workers' absentees," said Freed, who is also is a member of the Breathe Easy Southeast Missouri Coalition.
Freed said the Coalition is comprised of a group of people in the community -- both professionals and individuals -- working together and meeting on a monthly basis to address the issue of the effects of secondhand smoke.
"What we've found is there is no help out here available for people wanting to quit, and we're looking to some programs such as smoking cessation classes and other things," Freed noted.
The Great American Smokeout is a day to promote cessation, reminded Robin Stoner, health initiatives specialist for the American Cancer Society.
Stoner said: "If one person decides to quit for one day, they might be encouraged to try one more day, and another -- until hopefully it has been several days, weeks, months until their last cigarette."
For more information to quit smoking, contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.