Tobacco Free Coalition holds first Copiah-Lincoln meeting to begin fight for community health

Published 1:18 pm Friday, February 10, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — Mississippi Tobacco-Free Coalition of Copiah-Lincoln Counties held its first meeting Thursday with concerned community members, school leaders, a former alderman, representatives from the Mississippi State Department of Health and Office of Tobacco Control. Falana McDaniel is the Project Director for the Copiah-Lincoln County MTFC. 

A native of Brookhaven, she is hoping to use integrated program activities to prevent the initiation of tobacco into youth, reduce exposure to secondhand smoke and provide cessation services for adults struggling with nicotine addiction. 

Tobacco and smoking are a health concern and 5,400 people die in Mississippi every year from smoking related illnesses. McDaniel said second hand smoke can cause health problems for people who aren’t making the choice to actively smoke. 

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“I’ve had lung problems because of secondhand smoke. This coalition is a way to help the community health wise,” McDaniel said. “We want to promote healthy living and reduce the economic burden on the community. I see the negative impacts tobacco has on people and I want to educate people about it.” 

The coalition will meet on a quarterly basis and will work to promote and protect the health of all residents by reducing tobacco related illness and death. Copiah-Lincoln MTFC will fight against tobacco by proposing smoke free ordinances, like the one Karen Sullivan worked to pass in Brookhaven nearly a decade ago, to municipalities and the counties. 

Kenneth Judie, with the Mississippi Department of Health Alcohol and Tobacco Coalition, said Mississippi is actually number 1 in municipalities who have passed smoke-free ordinances. Brookhaven updated its smoke free ordinance to include e-cigarettes or vapes in 2019. 

Judie is originally from New Orleans and first came to work with the Department of Health in the Delta where he fought for smoke free ordinances. He now oversees the grants for the MTFC in Mississippi. Currently, they are trying to tackle smoking in municipalities in Copiah County and will soon try to target it in the county. 

A fifth of the adults in Mississippi smoke or use tobacco products according to statistics from 2019. Expenditures on healthcare costs due to smoking was $1.2 billion in 2009. 

Another issue facing Mississippians is the youth’s exposure to tobacco products especially through e-cigarettes and vapes. Brookhaven High School currently utilizes a detector in bathrooms on campus to combat vaping and e-cigarettes. 

The CDC reports 27.6 percent of Mississippi high school youth reported using tobacco products in 2019. This included e-cigarettes and 6.6 percent reported smoking cigarettes. 

“Hopefully we will have legislation coming up. We are trying to ban nicotine. We are so close to doing so and it would help because nicotine is very addictive,” Judie said. “Nicotine gets our kids to come back and continue to vape. It is a problem especially in the African-American communities. Our goal is to network and come up with a plan to work with adults and kids. We want to provide education, prevention and enforcement.” 

Anyone who struggles with an addiction to nicotine and is looking for a way to quit has a few options. One way is to call the tobacco quitline at 1.800.quitnow. People can also  visit to start their journey to recovery.  

King’s Daughter Medical Center offers a cessation program. Doctors in the area recommend patients to those services but they are not always willing to take the step. Tyson Kirkland leads the cessation program at KDMC. 

“Nicotine gets you to keep coming back. It is extremely addictive and dangerous,” he said. “Vapes are even more dangerous. They aren’t regulated. The chemical makeup is high. No one regulates what goes into them. It could be very dangerous.” 

Thursday’s meeting served as an introduction to tobacco and why the coalition is wanting to combat tobacco use and diseases in Copiah and Lincoln Counties. The next quarterly meeting will be in May.