By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
If Tynasha Jones has her way, New Mexico will one day be a smoke-free state. Statistics about the ills of tobacco roll effortlessly from this Clovis High School senior’s tongue.
“People who are exposed to smoke in their work environments inhale somewhere from 8-10 cigarettes a day. It would be a better world if smoking was banned,” said Jones, a recent recipient of the New Mexico Department of Health’s “Anti-Tobacco Youth Advocate of the Year Award.”
Jones balances school and church with a job at IHOP — a restaurant she admires for its smoke-free policy. Linda Teakell, contract coordinator for Curry County Citizens Against Tobacco, nominated Jones for the Advocate Award.
“She is my right-hand girl,” said Teakell, “Our mission is to educate and advocate about tobacco.”
This year, Jones made two separate trips to Santa Fe, meeting with legislators and lobbying for the clean indoor air ordinance. The ordinance — defeated 49-12 in the Senate — would have banned smoking in public areas (with the exemption of bars).
Jones, who has battled asthma for eight years, carries two inhalers with her daily; she also takes medication to stave off breathing attacks brought on by the disease. Her passion is also fueled by her mother’s struggle with smoking. As a child, Jones hid her mother’s cigarettes in washing machines and trash cans. Jones’ persistence and her involvement with Students Concerned About Tobacco have finally paid off — her mother hasn’t picked up a cigarette in months. But quitting, Andrea Jones, a 20-year smoker, hasn’t been easy.
“I’m not sure if my smoking caused Tynasha’s asthma,” said her mother. “But her concern about my health and her discipline have made me so proud. Early on Tynasha was the shyest person you’d ever seen,” said her mother, “but now she’s the first person to tell you how she feels or what she thinks.”
Jones said that approaching her peers about the ills of smoking was a challenge.
“At first I was nervous. I was like ‘what are they gonna think of me.’ People would sign up to enter the club but never come,” said Jones, who plans to study law at Eastern New Mexico State University after her spring graduation. “But it started to get easy.
“I know some kids now who run across the street during lunch or between periods just to smoke; some kids pay higher prices just to get a pack of cigarettes, or get friends who work at stores to give them cigarettes, and I just think, why would you want to smoke if you it’s going to kill you?”
Despite the ordinance being defeat, Jones said she is confident New Mexico’s restaurants will soon be smoke-free.