Health & Medical Guide

Smoke-free dining benefits employees and patrons

By Julie Yurek
Staff Writer

Working in a smoke filled environment 40 hours a week can wreak havoc on a person's health.

To combat the effects of secondhand smoke, many restaurants in Wright County are becoming smoke free.

"It's really a protection for the people who work in that environment," said Alison Horstman, public health educator with Wright County.

Wright County Public Health and Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU) put together a brochure listing all smoke-free restaurants.

"All the businesses listed are smoke-free voluntarily," she said.

Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School had nine students in TATU last year, said Health Councilor Jodi Woyke.

The smoke-free dining brochure was inserted in area newspapers this spring. It will probably be updated annually in order to include new smoke-free establishments, Woyke said.

Restaurants must designate at least 30 percent of the total seating capacity as non-smoking and must be available for patrons at all times, according to the Minnesota Department of Health web site, www.health.state.mn.us.

Non-smoking and smoking-permitted seating must be separated by a four-foot wide space or a physical barrier 56 inches or more in height or an outdoor (fresh) air ventilation, according to the Department of Health.

Scotty's offers smoke-free dining

Scotty's Family Restaurant in Waverly is one of the 50 plus restaurants listed as smoke free.

Owner Scott Czanstkowski is a non-smoker and so it was just natural for him to have his business be smoke fee, he said. It is his first restaurant.

"It's easier for a smoker to go into a smoke-free environment than it is for a non-smoker to go into a smoking environment," he said.

"By going into a smoke-free place, it's not doing any damage to you like a smoking environment does," he said.

Scotty's has been open for five months and offers a full menu and a lunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Smoke free has become a trend, Horstman said, citing cities such as Duluth, Rochester, New York City, and Boston that have passed smoke-free laws for restaurants, bars, and other establishments.

States that have also passed laws include California and even the country of Ireland, she said.

It's usually the employees who speak up about the smoke, not the general public, she said. However, she stressed that the "population needs to speak up."

Wright County Public Health mailed 800 random Wright County residents a survey in April asking them their beliefs on secondhand smoke, Horstman said.

The survey was developed by the University of Minnesota, she said.

The response rate back was 66 percent. The results of the survey are expected back within a month, she said.

HLWW students get involved in TATU

Besides the smoke-free dining brochure, the TATU program includes peer teaching to younger children about the dangers of smoking and other drugs.

Wright County gives Woyke the materials for TATU program, she said.

HLWW high school students in TATU visit groups of children who are split into two groups, kindergarten through third grade and fourth through sixth grade, Woyke said.

The TATU students give presentations on the negative effects of tobacco.

Presentations are about one-hour long, which include a video, an emphysema test, a taste test, showing students two pairs of lungs ­ one healthy, the other with cancer, and explaining the chemicals that are found in cigarettes.

Students in TATU have the option to attend a two-day training session at Camp Koinonia near Annandale in November, Woyke said.

Woyke advertises the TATU program around school and students can sign up if they are interested, she said.

The TATU students also take part in Chemical Awareness Week at HLWW. Each day is dedicated to a different topic, Woyke said.

That week students go to the elementary schools to talk and let the youngsters ask them questions about smoking, peer pressure, or anything they can think of, she said.

Published July 2003

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