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Augusta coalition teaming up for Great American Smokeout

Augusta Chronicle - 11/14/2018

Nov. 13--Getting people to quit smoking is "very personal" for the Rev. David Mathews.

A 30-year smoker and lung cancer survivor, the Pine Grove Baptist Church pastor is teaming up with Georgia Cancer Center to try and get people to quit smoking Thursday for the Great American Smokeout, and hopefully for good after that.

Pine Grove is one of the churches and businesses teaming up with Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University to promote the event Thursday, when smokers are asked to quit for a day and make a plan to quit for good. The cancer center is calling it the Great American Smokeout Partnership or GASP and is providing materials for them to provide to their congregations and customers, said Christine O'Meara, director of cancer information and awareness at the cancer center.

Pine Grove shared that information with its members Sunday and it was very well-received, Mathews said. While no one then admitted to having an issue with smoking, "we all agreed we had somebody in our family" who could benefit, he said.

The materials give them the chance to pass it on to someone who needs it with "the idea of partnering to help someone else to quit," Mathews said. "And to try and encourage them to at least take the first step this Thursday."

The idea of helping people quit smoking has become "very personal" for him, he said. "One of the things that unnerves me is to see, riding along in a car, and see somebody smoking and there are kids in the car," Mathews said.

BreathEasy Augusta, which helped convince the Augusta Commission to pass a tougher smokefree ordinance this year, will be at the Children's Hospital of Georgia on Thursday with the cancer center to pass out a fact sheet and answer questions about the new ordinance, which goes into effect Jan. 1.

"I think there was some confusion back when it was passed," said campaign director Danielle Moores. "People were questioning, are golf courses included? Are outdoor events included? We just wanted to provide some clarification to people that those are not included. It's only enclosed spaces."

The group is also working with the city on creating new signage for businesses that smoking and vaping are not allowed on those premises, she said. Vaping was included based "just on the lack of science, there's not enough information out there to say whether it is safe" to be around, Moores said.

This year's Smokeout comes on the heels of a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that cigarette smoking among adults dropped to its lowest recorded level in 2017 at 14 percent.

"That's good news," Moores said. "I feel like that probably means that a lot of these smokefree ordinances are bolstering the general movement toward less smoking."

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(c)2018 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.)

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