Five smoke-free cities and why this matters

Smokefree Alabama successful campaignSince 2011, five cities in Jefferson County have advanced comprehensive protections against secondhand smoke exposure in all worksites, restaurants and bars. That covers 43 percent of the county and the largest city in the state — Birmingham (212,000 people), Midfield (5,365), Vestavia Hills (34,033), Fultondale (8,380) and Bessemer (27,456).

At an event to celebrate this achievement, Birmingham City Council member Johnathan Austin explained why this matters to him: “As chairman of the public safety, my number one charge is for the health and safety of all the citizens of Birmingham. Looking at something as comprehensive as this was pretty much a no-brainer – just pass it and let’s make this happen.”

Members of the Health Action Partnership provided technical assistance to these communities before and after these protections went into affect, in part through mini-grants from HAP’s Tobacco Free Taskforce. For example, Friends of West End, Princeton Baptist Hospital and Alabama Citizens’ Action Program received grants to mobilize and engage community members and faith leaders in three cities impacted by health inequities.

“I want my congregation, my friends and my family to be protected from the dangers of secondhand smoke,” says Reverend Tyman, one of the participants. “With our support, every community can be smoke free.”

Cheyloe, another smoke-free advocate and HAP volunteer, has a very personal reason for her support, Her father, an artist, musician and bar owner, died of lung cancer four years ago and she wants to save her loved ones and future generations from facing a similar loss and to ensure that they can breathe clean air.

“The years spent with my father will never be enough,” she said. “I don’t smoke, but I go home after tending bar smelling like I smoked a pack. Because I work where smoking is allowed, I am more at risk for heart and lung disease than folks who work in a smoke-free environment. That’s a fact. Let’s protect all of Jefferson County’s residents including bartenders like me by supporting smoke-free policies.”

Today, the Tobacco-Free Task Force works with the Health Action Partnership to continue educating residents on the dangers of secondhand smoke and the benefits of comprehensive smoke-free protections.  For more information, go to smokefreealabama.com. We can protect all residents from the dangers of secondhand smoke.