PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Twenty-three states around the country are smoke-free, but Mississippi isn't one of them. However, one doctor at Singing River Health System is leading the way to change that.
Dr. Steven Demetropoulos is the Emergency Medical Director at Singing River. He recently received the Mississippi State Medical Association's Excellence in Wellness Award. During his 28 years at Singing River, he says he has treated a lot of people with tobacco related health problems, many related to second hand smoke.
"There's a case of a waitress who worked at a Waffle House and had problems with wheezing. She couldn't get over her bronchitis. And it's a shame for those people who have to choose between their jobs and putting food on the table and their health."
Many cities on the coast are smoke free. Singing River is a smoke free campus. Dr. Demetropoulos believes communities jumping on board is a big step, but his goal is a smoke-free state.
"Right now we have 90 communities that are smoke free. But even if we get every single community in Mississippi smoke free, we'll only have about 45 percent of the state because we are predominantly a rural state. So that's why a state law makes sense to get protection for the whole state."
He said by reducing smoking in public places the state can reduce numerous diseases, everything from cancer to heart disease.
"In Mississippi, we are number one in cardiovascular disease. But by flipping a switch tomorrow and putting a law into place, we could actually see a decrease in heart attacks across the state."
But he said in order for that to happen, more people need to get involved.
"The battle for smoke free air is a long battle. We have hit some milestones and have had victories; but we need everyone to be engaged. Almost 80 percent of Mississippians are in favor of smoke free air and they need to let their legislators know this is what people want. It will improve our health."