Woman, coalition battle tobacco

February 13, 2003 12:00 am

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

Lanelle Lovelace has made a life of fighting the drug that could have taken her own.

The Pine Grove resident is the program coordinator for the Calaveras County Tobacco Prevention Program, which is overseen by the county Health Department.

Lovelace, 43, also belongs to the program's 12-member Tobacco Prevention Coalition, which met yesterday morning in Angels Camp at the Calaveras County Office of Education.

The tobacco program is funded annually by $150,000 from the state, a result of the 1988 Tobacco Tax Health Prevention Act.

In short term, the coalition's goal is to increase community awareness about the harmful effects of smoking. Yesterday, coalition members discussed using dances, park activities and community studies as ways to spread the word about the danger of tobacco products.

However, Lovelace said the program's ultimate goal — to eradicate tobacco products from society — is daunting.

"I hate to say impossible," said Lovelace, who lived in both Calaveras and Tuolumne counties between 1979 and 2001. "It's difficult, and it's challenging. And when you see the numbers float back up again after they have come down, it's depressing.

"But we can't give up. There are lives at stake."

Her own battle

That's a fact Lovelace knows firsthand.

Six years ago, she was ruled by nicotine. She could only shake her addiction after her daughter — who was 11 at the time — begged her to stop.

Lovelace wouldn't listen to anyone else. She ignored her doctor and her own body. Despite constant sore throats, labored breathing, smoking-induced asthma and seasonal bouts with bronchitis and pneumonia, Lovelace continued to light up.

"Quitting was not an option," Lovelace said. "I enjoyed it."

Then, Lovelace was approached by the one person she would listen to.

"It was my daughter," she said. "She came to me one day and said, ‘You're all I have in the world.' She said, ‘What's going to happen to me someday when you die of smoking?'