With skates strapped to their feet, patrons of Skateland of Augusta whizzed past speakers blaring live music Sunday as they rounded the rink in the Old School Skate Jam.
The event, coordinated by musicians Tony Howard and Lewis McTush in connection with BreathEasy Augusta, drew more than 100 people to the small rink for an evening of music, skating and education.
With the Augusta Commission set to deliberate on the city’s smoking ordinance today, attendees were given the opportunity to speak with members of BreathEasy Augusta, who were handing out pamphlets warning of the dangers of secondhand smoke. The group, which has been active for more than two years, is fighting for a stricter smoking ordinance in local bars and restaurants.
Christine O’Meara, the director of cancer information and awareness at the Georgia Regents University Cancer Center, said the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
“It’s very important to do education and outreach when policy decisions are on the horizon so that our elected people can see that there are people in the community who are concerned about his issue,” she said.
McTush, who said he suffers from a heart condition because of exposure to secondhand smoke, said he has seen how smoking can be detrimental to those working in bars and restaurants.
“It’s not only the entertainers,” he said. “It’s the bartenders and the waiters. These are the people working in these toxic environments, and they depend on these environments to make a living. There is no safe exposure to secondhand smoke.”
McTush said the decision to hold the event at a skating rink was just a way for the group to promote health in a fun way. DJs spun music earlier in the evening while Howard, McTush and other live performers waited for their turn.
Teams wearing coordinating outfits skated around the rink backward while other patrons who hadn’t laced up their skates yet stopped by BreathEasy Augusta’s display in the food court.
Howard’s daughter, LaToya, said she became involved with the smoke-free movement after participating in earlier events with her father.
“Seeing my father come home from some of the clubs at night, I would notice that his voice would be really hoarse after a couple of weeks,” she said. “I’ve become passionate about it because it was really affecting him.”
McTush said he hoped BreathEasy Augusta would pick up more members by the night’s end.
“If we’re going to be part of this world that we live in, we want to leave the world a better place,” he said.