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Orlando Sentinel

Smoking Warning Reaches Hispanics

By Martin E. Comas

February 26, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Orlando Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

With cigarettes on the market called Rio and Dorado and Hispanic magazines displaying advertisements for smoking, it's no secret that tobacco companies promote their products heavily toward the Hispanic community, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

So after several states, including Florida, settled with the tobacco industry for $246 billion a few years ago, the Florida Department of Health used part of that money to launch a campaign last year to present the dangers of second-hand smoke to Hispanics.

"Every day, you protect your children from injuries, like strapping them into car seats, making them wear helmets when they ride a bike," said Frank Penela, a spokesman for the state health agency. "But people should realize that smoking around children is also very dangerous."

Seizing the opportunity to present their anti-smoking information to thousands of Hispanics at once, state health officials have started sponsoring and manning booths at various Hispanic festivals in Florida, including in Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami.

On Sunday, state health officials will be at the Fiesta Pueblo Latino 2001 at Vista Park in Orlando, where more than 40,000 people are expected to attend, to present information about the dangers of second-hand smoke and offer ways to quit smoking.

"The festivals allow the Department of Health to reach the community with important health information, such as the damaging effects second-smoke has on the health of children," Penela said.

Also as part of the campaign, officials have distributed anti-smoking brochures and posters, written in Spanish, to health clinics in Orlando, Miami and Tampa.

Last month, two television commercials, targeted at Hispanics, aired, showing parents smoking around their children to emphasize the danger of second-hand smoke.

Although fewer Hispanics smoke than whites in the United States, according to statistics by the state health agency, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among Hispanics, and coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death for Hispanics living in this country.

Also, parents who smoke contribute to 6,200 preventable children's deaths a year, since smoking by pregnant mothers may lead to sudden infant death syndrome and low birth weight.

Martin E. Comas can be reached at or 407-420-5719.

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