Friday, December 26, 2014

Liberty City Council rescinds smoking ban that had passed with mayor's tie-breaking vote weeks earlier

Liberty city council members voted 5-1 to repeal a city-wide smoking ban in public buildings that was passed narrowly in November. The law was to go into effect Jan. 1, Larry Rowell reports for The Casey County News.

The ban had passed in November when Mayor Steve Sweeney cast the deciding vote because the council was split 2-2. Two council members were absent at the meeting, Rowell reports in a separate article.

A special meeting was called Dec. 17 for first reading of an ordinance to to rescind the ban and a new restaurant tax; both passed on second reading Dec. 22, but Sweeney vetoed the restaurant measure, which passed 4-2. He could not veto the smoking measure because it passed 5-1. Council Member Brian Beeler stood by his original vote for the ban, but Member Andy Lawhorn switched to oppose it.

“I stand by what I voted for,” said Lawhorn, who lost the November election for mayor to Council Member Steven Brown. “We sit here and say that second hand smoke is not harmful. I smoke. If we can actually say it's not harmful to us or other people and 'other people' being the key word, we're in denial. That's just a fact.” But he said he changed his vote because of public opinion.

“I've heard a lot of outpouring conversations from the public that's come to me that was against it. And I feel that maybe I voted my conscience and what I believe kind of before I got any feedback, good quality feedback, from the public on what they wanted,” Lawhorn said.

Several Liberty residents attended the meeting and voiced their opinions about the issue, Rowell reports. One woman whose husband died from complications of smoking said public places should be made safe, and Jelaine Harlow, a health educator from the Lake Cumberland District Health Department, said it's a public health issue, much like keeping sewage out of water supplies.

But County Attorney Tom Weddle, a smoker, objected that the ordinance would not allow him to smoke in his office after hours, when no one else is around. Councilman Doug Johnson, a non-smoker who has made two businesses smoke-free, agreed with Weddle and said to people who don't like secondhand smoke, “You should boycott that place until they yield to no smoking but we should not mandate that to the owner. If we mandate that, we can mandate anything. It’s their personal space, they own it even though it’s open to the public. It is privately owned.”

Studies have found that 65 percent of Kentuckians support banning smoking in indoor public places, but despite this support only 23 Kentucky communities have smoke-free policies that cover all workplaces and enclosed public places, according to the Smoke-Free Kentucky website. This breaks down to 32 percent of Kentuckians covered by strong local smoke-free laws.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Holiday stress can make former smokers relapse; here are ways to keep that from happening

People often smoke when they are stressed, and despite the famous holiday song that claims "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," the season often brings stress that makes many former smokers relapse.

Smoking doesn't really relieve stress, even though many smokers believe it does, The Cleveland Clinic says on its website. In fact, it actually causes a great deal of stress to the body.

The reason smokers think it relieves stress is because nicotine, the mood-altering drug in tobacco, causes the body to release a chemical called dopamine, which creates an initial sense of calm in the body. It also makes the body crave this sensation again and again. "This is a cruel illusion," says the website, because even though the body feels calm, it is really under a great deal of stress. Blood pressure and heart rate increase, muscles become tense, blood vessels constrict and less oxygen is available to the body when you smoke.

Kentucky has many former smokers; 26.5 percent of adults in the state smoke, down from 29 percent two years ago, according to America's Health Rankings. The NYU Langone Medical Center offers these tips to help those who have quit stay smoke-free:

  • Remind yourself of the reasons you quit in the first place. Write down the top three reasons you quit smoking and put them somewhere you can see daily.
  • Make an action plan for how you are going to handle your holiday triggers. Have a plan for every trigger.
  • If you feel the urge to smoke, don’t give in, and remember the 5Ds: Delay. Drink water. Do something else. Deep breathe. Discuss feelings with a friend or family member.
  • Reward yourself for staying tobacco-free.
If you relapse, take the immediate steps to get help. Talk to your health-care provider about nicotine replacement therapy. Quit Now Kentucky also offers one-on-one counseling for tobacco users who are ready to quit using tobacco products, call 1-800-784-8669.

Tips on getting around or through the 'holiday blahs'

The holidays are supposed to be the happiest time of the year, but for many it is a time of sadness and anxiety, Sarah Elizabeth Richards writes for the Daily Burn.

"There's so much emphasis on family and celebration, but it's hard if you're dealing with difficult memories or reminders that you're not close to your family,"  Sharon Melnick, author of Success Under Stress: Powerful Tools for Staying Calm, Confident and Productive When the Pressure's On, said, writes Richards. "It can feel like there's a big gap between what other people are experiencing and what you're experiencing."

Not only do holidays provide normal stresses like added financial burdens, gift giving and family and social expectations, add in cold weather and a lack of sunlight and you have created perfect conditions for a "world-class funk," she writes.

But there is a difference between seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is estimated to affect up to 20 percent of Americans and the "holiday blahs," Richards notes.

"It's important not to classify all winter doldrums as SAD," Sarah Eckfeldt, a psychotherapist in New York City, told Richards. "Many people experience a drop in mood in anticipation of the holidays because they might be sad over a recent breakup or spending the first holiday after the death of a loved one and could benefit from talking to a therapist."

The good news is that the "holiday blahs" tend to go away after the season is over. Richards offers some tips to survive the season if you find yourself with a case of these "blahs."
  • Seek social support. Make plans with a small group of friends, put a few events on your calendar to look forward to or explore a new activity that you have been interested in.
  • Get to the gym. Make yourself go, even if you don't feel like it.
  • Don't look at Facebook. Connect with your friends via phone or text message, talking only to the people who will lift you up.
  • Reframe your thinking. Find opportunities to volunteer. Spend time doing what you enjoy.
  • Remember that the holiday season will soon pass, You just have to make it to Jan. 2 and the season will be over.
"If you struggle with serious and continuous depressive symptoms, be sure to reach out to a healthcare provider to discuss your condition," Richards writes.