While Covid-19 is on the forefront of our minds, there is another killer in our midst.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) lists commercial tobacco as the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the US, killing 480,000 humans a year — 2,500 of which are in Nebraska. Smoking cigarettes leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body. Tobacco kills more humans in the US than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined. Exposure to secondhand smoke is a known cause of cancer.
If smoking continues at the current rate among U.S. youth, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 years of age are expected to die prematurely from a smoking-related illness. This represents about one in every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger who are alive today.
The total economic cost of smoking is more than $300 billion a year, including nearly $170 billion in direct medical care for adults and more than $156 billion in lost productivity due to premature death and exposure to secondhand smoke.
Creation of tobacco-products increases deforestation and tobacco waste is the No. 1 item littered on the planet. The hazardous chemicals leach into our soil, storm water, run-off, and is used to irrigate our crops.
It’s almost impossible to walk down a street in our city without spotting cigarette butts.
A local coalition of more than 60 organizations, businesses, individuals and elected leaders, Tobacco Education & Advocacy of the Midlands (T.E.A.M.), brings the community together to address these negative impacts of tobacco in Sarpy and Cass Counties. Each year they honor organizations and individuals from different sectors who have significantly affected one or all of the 17 different communities within the service area with their efforts.
The City of Gretna was honored as the 2020 Community of the Year for their years of support of tobacco-free healthy living. The City Council of this 131-year-old city unanimously passed a resolution in February of 2020 to designate all of their current and future public parks, trails, and ball areas as areas of health and wellness, which should be free of secondhand smoke and tobacco waste.
City Councilwoman Angie Lauritsen stated, “Gretna residents love and appreciate our green spaces and this policy allows us to enjoy them in the healthiest way. Our children deserve playgrounds free of toxic cigarette butts.”
T.E.A.M. honored Papillion Community Foundation as their 2020 Business of the Year for their efforts in creating healthy outdoor tobacco-free family events to attend.
“The Papillion Community Foundation (PCF) is honored to be named the 2020 T.E.A.M. Business of the Year. Being the driving force behind many of the iconic annual events including Papillion Days and Winter Wonderland, it is our responsibility to always think about the health of the citizens of Papillion. That is why we choose to make our events tobacco-free. PCF identifies, develops and supports programs that enhance the quality of life in Papillion. We carry on this mission through the support and education that T.E.A.M. provides to our community by making sure that citizens know about the negative effects tobacco has on all of us,” said Laura Schwartz, PCF Executive Director.
Anyone who lives in Papillion is very familiar with the events mentioned and crowds seem to grow each year. With each passing year, T.E.A.M. received more and more complaints from attendees of the events. Parents were tired of having their children exposed to secondhand smoke while sitting at the parade or shopping at the park. In 2018, the coalition approached Papillion Community Foundation to implement a tobacco-policy for the parade and vendor area, which brought nothing but praises.
In 2019, the policy was expanded to the other areas of the event making the first of the surrounding cities to implement this comprehensive event policy.
Cigarettes and other smoking materials are the leading cause of residential fire deaths in the United States. These fires also result in millions of dollars in damaged property and healthcare costs. T.E.A.M. encourages multi-family housing properties to enact tobacco-free policies for the health and safety of their tenants.
Mercy Housing – Crestview Village in La Vista was recognized as 2020 T.E.A.M. Multi-Family Property of the year for redefining affordable, low-income housing and designating it tobacco-free. They are a national nonprofit organization that is working to build a more humane world where poverty is alleviated, communities are healthy and all people can develop their full potential.
Crestview Village Apartments, located in La Vista, Nebraska, on separate 8.88 and 5.44 acre sites, was developed in 1970 and extensively renovated in 2011. The property features 19 two-story apartment buildings totaling in 154 units of housing for low-income families. Resident services, a community center with full teaching kitchen, an after school program with college tutors and a summer program, on-site computer lab and library, community vegetable garden, two playgrounds and two sports courts, adult ESL classes, adult life skills, and financial education and homeownership classes are available to residents.
Additionally, Crestview Village is a smoke-free campus, providing clean, smoke-free air for all who live there. An active member of T.E.A.M. they plan to offer youth prevention education to all their youth tenants.
T.E.A.M. is only as successful as the individuals that make up the coalition, two individuals from the community Michael Lennen and Senator Sue Crawford were honored as the 2020 Advocates of the Year.
Michael Lennen has a Bachelor’s degree focused in parks, recreation and leisure studies from Illinois State University. He is currently the program coordinator for City of Papillion Recreation Department and was previous the director of recreation for the City of Plattsmouth. He has been an active member of the coalition for over seven years. He was instrumental in creating tobacco-free events like the Fun Run and Zumba in the Park for the citizens of Plattsmouth and Cass County to enjoy.
Lennen stated, “I am honored to receive this award. I’ve been a part of T.E.A.M. for over 7 years and full-heartedly believe in their mission to decrease the negative impact of commercial tobacco on the community. With five children myself, I feel it is important to protect the health of our youth. By playing a role in the coalition I have been able to take steps in making parks and other public spaces tobacco free and that feels really good. Working with this team of dedicated professionals has been a pleasure and I plan to continue to work with them for years to come.”
Senator Sue Crawford represents District 45 which includes the city of Bellevue and Offutt Air Force Base, in the Nebraska Legislature. She received her BS in political science from Truman State University and she completed her PhD from Indiana University Bloomington in the fields of American government and public policy. Senator Crawford worked with T.E.A.M. and community advocates to strengthen state policy to support efforts by local law enforcement to perform compliance checks to prevent tobacco products from getting into the hands of minors. She is a consistent advocate for state policies to reduce tobacco use and protect clean air provisions. “I have appreciated the partnership of T.E.A.M. in work to make Sarpy County a healthier community through policy changes and public education,” said Senator Crawford.
To learn more and get involved with T.E.A.M.’s mission to reduce the negative impact of tobacco in our community, visit www.TEAMTobaccoFree.org.
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