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Health department goes tobacco free

The Madison County Health Department has become a tobacco-free campus as of March 1.

The new policy includes all tobacco products and was made possible by a mini-grant from the Missouri Department of Health.

“The funding covered personnel cost to research policies locally as well as other department’s in Missouri and to purchase the signage for the department,” Madison County Health Department Administrator Becky Hunt said. “No tobacco products are permitted on the health department property.”

According to information provided by the Madison County Health Department 25.8 percent of adults in Madison County are current cigarette smokers. 

Those numbers decrease when talking about youth. According to the Health Risk Behavior Among Missouri Youth study of 2017, 9.2 percent of high school and 3.5 percent of middle school-aged youth in the state of Missouri have smoked one or more cigarettes in the past 30 days. 

“Smoke free laws can reduce the risk for heart disease and lung cancer among nonsmokers,” Madison County Health Department RN Teresa Rehkop said. “There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure, even brief exposure can be harmful to health. Since 1964, approximately 2.5 million nonsmokers have died from health problems caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.”

Rehkop said secondhand smoke can cause, in adults who have never smoked, heart disease, lung cancer and strokes.

“For nonsmokers, breathing secondhand smoke has immediate harmful effects on the heart and blood vessels,” Rehkop said. “It is estimated that it has caused nearly 34,000 heart disease deaths each year during 2005 to 2009 among adult nonsmokers in the United States.”

Rehkop said exposure has also caused more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths each year during that same time period in nonsmoking adults in the United States.

Quitting is no easy task but these statistics show the importance of creating smoke free environments.

Rehkop said the Missouri Tobacco Quit Line is available to help those interested in quitting. It can be reached by phone at 1-800-784-8669 or 

 “Tobacco dependence is a chronic health condition that often requires multiple, discrete interventions and the individual may relapse several times before successfully quitting,” Rehkop said. “The individual has to make this decision their own. Quitting is not easy. The individual may have short-term effects such as weight gain, irritability and anxiety.”

Rehkop said some tips to help with quitting tobacco are; do not let fear paralyze you, use a quit journal, find a shoulder to lean on, eat smart, drink water, get your sleep, get moving, take it one day at a time, be educated, accept the urges and let them go, keep positive, and be patient. 

As of March 1 the Madison County Health Department has become a tobacco-free campus.

As of March 1 the Madison County Health Department has become a tobacco-free campus.

Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at

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