Health Fair held in park

June 19, 2004|By TARA REILLY


While you may already know some of the effects of smoking and secondhand smoke, here's something that may surprise you.

Kindergartners and first-grade students are packing their mouths with chewing tobacco, and the number of young children doing it appears to be on the rise, Keisha Hanson, community health educator for the Washington County Health Department, said Friday.

She said health officials noticed the trend while visiting schools to spread the word on the effects of smoking and tobacco use.

"It seems as if their fathers give it to them, just as sort of a right of initiation," said Kimberly Rasch, Health Department project manager for the Cigarette Restitution Fund Program.


Hanson and Rasch were among those representing several organizations at the Community Health Fair on Friday at Wheaton Park in Hagerstown.

The health fair was hosted by Brothers United Who Dare to Care, the Memorial Recreation Center and Gateway Ministries: Club Jesus Street and Hispanic Ministry. It was sponsored by the Minority Outreach & Technical Assistance Program.

Black Manna Caf, the Hagerstown Area Police Athletic League and the Western Maryland Area Health Education Center also had tables at the fair.

Spectators were treated to free food and refreshments.

Small crowds moved in and out of the event tent picking up giveaway items and reading pamphlets and fact sheets on the benefits of quitting smoking, healthy living and eating, and prostate and cervical cancer screenings, among other topics.

"It seems to be a success so far," Andy Smith, president of Brothers United Who Dare to Care, said about an hour into the three-hour fair.

Next to the Health Department's table, representatives from the Maryland Smoking Stops Here program handed out stickers, pencils and balloons and asked people to quit smoking and to encourage others, particularly children, to do the same.

"It's wherever you are, smoking stops," said Dale Parker, of the Maryland Smoking Stops Here program.

Darlene Kee-Cooper, the fair's coordinator, said she was pleased with the turnout.

"It might not be as big as I would like, but it's still going to get to somebody," she said.

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