Lawmakers May End Anti-Choking Poster Law

A bill before the Texas Legislature would no longer require restaurants to have a poster showing the Heimlich Maneuver.

The state law requiring the posters has been in place for 22 years, but Rep. Ralph Sheffield, R-Temple, says the posters are not necessary.

He says the Heimlich isn't the only way to help a choking victim, as many people can dislodge a stuck piece of food with a swat to the back.

"The concern, of course, is, if done improperly, you could actually break ribs," said Dr. Paul Worrell, a family practitioner.

Worrell also said the has never seen someone sustain such an injury from the Heimlich.

The American Red Cross teaches both techniques -- the abdominal thrust and the back blows.

"Neither of those methods are better than the other; they are all effective," said Andria Butler, an instructor of a training and preparedness class at the American Red Cross.

While at times, one back blow is all that is needed to dislodge a stuck piece of food, it's not  enough at other times.

Ward Prejean, 19, was sitting at a restaurant eating dinner with his family when he laughed and accidentally inhaled a piece of chicken.

"I was literally suffocating in the blink of an eye," he said.

His father, who had just taken a CPR class for his job a few days earlier, stepped in when he began to turn blue.

"He hit me on the back five times; it still didn't dislodge,"  said.

His father performed the Heimlich maneuver and the stuck piece of food flew out.

"It was a very scary experience," said Prejean as he took a class to learn the techniques that saved his life.

Health officials say that while the posters may not help save a person's life, having a visible reminder of what to do can't hurt.

"For those persons who are unsure of what to do, are untrained or just nervous about what they've been taught, having a visual reference can be a big help," Butler said.

"Since we know that both techniques work, both should be demonstrated in some sort of a poster in the restaurant," Worrell said.

The bill passed unanimously in the House and is expected to be voted on in the Senate sometime this week.

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