GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) – "I will be sick with an upper respiratory infection, and sinus and allergic rhinitis," said Jennifer Cofer with the American Lung Association.
Some speakers shared their personal health problems that they blame on breathing cigarette smoke. And they showed the latest media campaign to educate Mississippians about the dangers of second hand smoke.
"I don't think any restaurant in Mississippi should allow smoking, and I'm a smoker," a woman stated in one public service announcement.
The Mississippi Health Department hosted a forum in Gulfport on Thursday, called "Clearing the Air: Eliminating Exposure to Second hand Smoke in All Public Places, Including Work Places." Various health advocates also pushed for state legislation to make Mississippi smoke free. They said every year, 550 Mississippians who've never smoked in their life die from exposure to second-hand smoke.
"We are working to protect all citizens and every worker has a right to breathe smoke-free air," said Cofer.
Efforts to pass similar legislation in Mississippi have failed eight times before. However, there's more optimism this time around.
"We haven't done this educational campaign that we're working on as we speak. We haven't had the resources to really make a big statewide push like we did this year," said Kimberly Hughes with the American Cancer Society. "We said you know, the support is really not there, so let's go back to the local level and work with our cities to pass local smoke-free ordinances."
Right now, 47 cities in Mississippi have passed smoke-free ordinances, six of them are in south Mississippi. The goal of the grassroots campaign is to make sure no-smoking signs are posted at every workplace across the state.
The 50-participants of the forum signed banners and petitions, and they pledged to spread the word about this state-wide initiative.
"I was part of the Gulfport smoke-free ordinance, helped them out a lot with that. I'd love to see our state go smoke-free," said Stacey Curry, a program participant.
"We need to really push this for all the kids that are growing up in a world right now that's filled with smoke," said another participant. "So let's for them, and for us, do this thing."
Currently, 27 states have smoke-free laws. The "Smoke-Free Air Mississippi" campaign is making six other stops across the state.