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Students Address Restaurant Smoking Issues

November 16, 2001

Oklahoma Baptist University senior nursing students Heather Gordin, Lisa Dadulo and Jana Barsaleau recently created a dining guide for the Shawnee community to give diners the option to eat in a smoke-free environment.

The purpose of the smoke-free dining brochure was not only to give publicity to restaurants that operate under a no smoking policy, but also to inform residents of the risk factors involved in second-hand smoke. The brochure highlights the benefits of a smoke-free restaurant with the hope that other Shawnee eating establishments will change their current policy to become smoke-free.

When creating the brochure, the nursing majors focused on people who are at risk in a smoky environment, particularly those who are allergic to smoke or have asthma and those who are pregnant or have newborns or young children. The students composed the guide as part of a class assignment for a community health class at OBU.

Tobacco Free Norman, a group composed of students, health advocates and community leaders committed to public health and awareness, completed a similar project last year. The group, coordinated by Alice McGrew, cancer control specialist for the American Cancer Society, Norman Chapter, wanted to make Norman residents aware of places they could eat without the dangers of second-hand smoke.

Gordin, Dadulo and Barsaleau contacted the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce to get a list of all the restaurants in Shawnee and then called every restaurant and asked them a series of questions to determine if they were smoke-free 100 percent of the time.

Many restaurants claimed that they needed a smoking section in order to keep business. According to the Norman group, however, polls showed that 78% of Oklahomans would prefer that all restaurants be smoke-free.

"We were not necessarily targeting smoking," Dadulo said. "We were trying to show the effects of second-hand smoke. We wanted to show that people may have the right to smoke in restaurants, but not the right to expose others to the dangers of second-hand smoke."

The brochure will be made available to Shawnee residents this month at local restaurants, hotels, schools and hospitals. It also will be posted on the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce website.