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Pennsylvanian Adventists Support Smoke-Free Legislation

By David Clevenger, PhD

Pennsylvania Faith United Against Tobacco, a diverse coalition of faith leaders from across the state, held a press conference recently at the state capitol to urge the legislature to enact comprehensive smoke-free legislation that covers all workplaces and protects all Pennsylvanians from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

In his testimony, David Clevenger (pictured)—pastor of the Carlisle, Shermansdale, Hershey, Capital Area, and Lebanon churches—clarified that the proposed new legislation is not just a matter of health, but also of morality and spirituality. “This is the reason so many organizations came together to make a difference,” he explained. “We hope that the legislature will do the right thing and pass Senate Bill 246."

Under the dome of the rotunda gathered leaders Deborah Brown, vice president of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic; Diane Berlin, vice chair of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling and coordinator of Smoke-Free PA; Pastor Sandy Strauss, policy director for the Pennsylvania Council of Churches; Vincent DeMarco, national coordinator of Faith United Against Tobacco; Clevenger representing the Pennsylvania Conference and Adventist Regeneration Ministries; Kevin O'Flaherty representing the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids; La Vaida Owens-White, RN, of Faith Community Nurse Health Ministries Association; Susan Brown of the American Cancer Society; Pastor Jesse Brown of the Calvary Lutheran Church in Southwest Philadelphia; and Mary Hafer, president of the Greater Harrisburg chapter of Church Women United.

"I'm not asking everyone to stop smoking—although I wish they would. I'm asking that they not expose people (to their smoke) in public places," proposed Hafer.

Clavenger went on to say, "Seventh-day Adventists have historically been supportive of better health practices and for people to stop smoking. As faith leaders we cannot stand idly by, but must act to ensure that all Pennsylvanian workers have equal protection from the more than 4,000 chemicals found in secondhand smoke.” He added, "Twenty-three other states and the District of Columbia have done the right thing and passed smoke-free legislation so that their workers don't have to compromise their health in order to get a paycheck. It is time for Pennsylvania to do the same."

Pastor Jesse Brown, with the support of Mayor Michael Nutter, a Seventh-day Adventist, worked previously with a coalition in Philadelphia to pass smoke-free ordinances. Brown also got assistance from DeWitt Williams, EdD, director of Health and Temperance Ministries for the North American Division. Williams is a native of Philadelphia, and his work opened opportunities for the church to be involved in this coalition for a smoke-free Pennsylvania.

"It was a blessing and privilege to work alongside such a wonderful group of leaders, politicians, and faith groups who care about health the way we do," commented Clevenger, who has been involved in Adventist Regeneration Ministries under Williams and the department of Health and Temperance. Adventist Regeneration Ministries advocates a 12-step program—with a focus on Jesus Christ being the highest power—to help people stop smoking, using drugs, alcohol, and many other addictions and abuses. For more information, contact Clevenger at sealionknight@comcast.net.
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