Smoke Free Florence works to reduce tobacco use

Tiffany Roper, Staff Writer

“Smoking or non-smoking?” will no longer be a question asked in restaurants, bars, school events and workplaces in the city of Florence effective on Tuesday, Nov. 1.

Smoke Free Florence (SFF), an organization dedicated to the prevention of secondhand smoke in the Pee Dee Region, is making efforts to wipe out the harmful effects of smoking and tobacco products in Florence and surrounding areas. An ordinance was passed in May, and since then, SFF has made several strides toward making public buildings smoke-free environments.

According to Deborah Dunbar, Project Coordinator for SFF, workplaces and schools are the main priority of the organization.

The School and Youth Coordinator, Renee Wiley, has partnered with the school districts in Florence County in order to get them to adopt the Tobacco-Free Policy.

“Every school usually has some sort of tobacco policy,” Wiley said.  “This one just says that they’ll adhere to the rules: no smoking on school campuses, at school events, in vehicles; not smoking any tobacco products.”

Wiley has gained the support of four out of five school districts in Florence, and they are now 100 percent smoke- and tobacco-free campuses. SFF also works towards getting local gas stations, convenience stores and grocery stores to lessen the appearance of cigarette and tobacco advertisements. This is a concept used by retailers in partnership with the major tobacco companies called the Point of Purchase.

SFF has created several programs for the children in Florence to become involved in, so they can promote the smoke-free idea to others. The youth-powered tobacco-free movement is called Rage Against the Haze.

Dunbar and Wiley both said they believe that through the Rage Against the Haze movement, young children and teens are learning to not start smoking cigarettes or use tobacco products, lessening the effects of peer pressure.

“These kids are really the mouthpieces for combating tobacco,” Wiley said.

Although the FMU campus has been smoke-free for two years, students still have mixed opinions about the efforts of SFF to make Florence a completely smoke-free city in public buildings.

Kendall Brand, a junior majoring in marketing, is a smoker. She said that she feels like she should be able to at least smoke in local bars.

“It honestly doesn’t bother me,” Brand said. “It’s just mainly in bars when I feel like I should have that right to smoke.”

Sommer Turner, a junior mass communication major said that she felt the ordinance was passed to create healthier environments in local businesses, but that it is what people need – not necessarily what they want.

Dunbar, Wiley, and the rest of the SFF team are adamant about trying to get stores to take down some of their tobacco advertisements, as well as trying to educate the community overall.

“We’re not telling anybody not to smoke, because that’s your liberty,” Dunbar said. “That’s your right, and you can do whatever you want to do, but I should be able to breathe good air, too. That’s my right. When I’m in a restaurant, I shouldn’t have to smell your smoke.”

SFF offers residents of the city of Florence with a free eight-week program that is dedicated to helping people quit smoking.

It includes four free counseling sessions, one-on-one with a counselor who helps with the process and an eight-week nicotine therapy program with a choice of the patch, gum, or lozenges designed to decrease the craving for nicotine.

Anyone who is seeking help with quitting can visit or call the South Carolina Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.