Hidalgo County Sees Groundswell of Smoke Free Ordinances

“Community buy-in.” That’s the phrase Gilda Bowen uses to describe the wave of comprehensive smoke-free ordinances recently passed in communities throughout the county. Bowen is the Tobacco Coordinator for the Hidalgo County Tobacco Prevention Cessation Coalition (TPCC).

When the Hidalgo County TPCC formed in February of 2014, only one smoke-free ordinance had passed within the county. Today, 17 communities are 100% smoke-free.

“Even though there are separate cities in the county, the Valley is like a large community,” said Bowen. “So every time a city passed one, it encouraged another to take it up.”

She credits the combination of grassroots efforts and support from American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, Texans Standing Tall, and other organizations for their success.

“It took research and planning from the AHA and ACS combined with a lot of one-on-one meetings to convince civic leaders that their communities wanted this,” Bowen added.

The movement built up slowly, with the cities of Edinburg, Pharr and Mission creating smoke-free ordinances from 2014-2016. Then in 2017, momentum took over, with at least one ordinance a month being passed.

Having coalition members committed to creating smoke-free communities was the major factor in making Hidalgo County virtually smoke-free. Every agenda, handout, or email from members included updates on what was happening in cities. So when McAllen had a public hearing, they had over 200 people show up.

The coalition realizes that even with this success, their work is not over.

“There will always be more work, there will always be opportunities,” said Mrs. Bowen. “We hope the community is proud and will take ownership of some projects to continue working on enforcement and implementation.”

Texans Standing Tall understands that passing and enforcing comprehensive smoke-free ordinances is hard work, but we also believe that Texas cities are up to the challenge of implementing changes that help create healthier, safer communities – Gilda Bowen and the Hidalgo County TPCC are living proof of that. If you’re interested in learning more about passing a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance in your community, please contact Steve Ross at sross@TexansStandingTall.org.

San Antonio Passes Model Civil Social Host Ordinance

SAN ANTONIO- San Antonio City Council unanimously passed a civil social host ordinance today during their city council meeting. Austin-based non-profit Texans standing tall (TST) was instrumental in helping Circles of San Antonio Community Coalition (COSA) organize their community to bring the issue of underage drinking to the attention of the San Antonio City Council.

Alcohol remains the most abused substance by youth in the state of Texas. Social access is the number one way underage students get alcohol. According to the Texas School Survey, 22% of students grades 7-12 get their alcohol at parties. Additionally, 74% of college students report getting alcohol from a friend as reported in the Texas College Survey of Substance Use.
Youth alcohol abuse is associated with unplanned sexual activity, sexual assaults, fights, impaired driving, homicides and suicides Testimony by concerned citizens reflected what is indicated by the data.

COSA and TST organized 16 speakers to address the San Antonio City Council on the impact that alcohol is having on San Antonio youth in the community at large. Those speakers highlighted testimony from parents, youth, PTA, paramedic, and other community members who had faced the negative consequences of parties hosted by “well intentioned” adults. The stories included rapes, teen pregnancies, and first responders to deadly car crashes.

A civil social host ordinance is a city level policy that addresses underage alcohol abuse by allowing police officers to fine hosts of underage drinking parties when they are called for service. San Antonio’s social host ordinance is a comprehensive approach to addressing youth social access and serves as a model ordinance for the state. “San Antonio is the largest city in the country to pass a civil social host ordinance,” TST’s Strategy Specialist Brian Lemons said. “It sets the standard for cities across the state to adopt model social host ordinances that are effective and enforceable.”
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus presented the civil Social Host Ordinance to council members on Dec. 15.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus presented the civil Social Host Ordinance to council members on Dec. 15.

Councilman Rey Saldana championed and introduced the bill to the city council. The ordinance passed the city’s safety committee earlier this year and the Chief of Police William McManus presented the ordinance to the city council at today’s meeting. Council members reflected on their personal experiences with underage drinking parties. Their concern for youth well-being was heightened once the critical nature of this problem was brought to their attention by those presenting testimony.

High school senior, Kayleigh Stubbs brought personal experience to the council. “I see the “snaps” posted on Snapchat, inviting people to their homes to have parties – BYOB (Bring your own booze). It is at these parties that my peers often drink alcohol, get drunk, and do other things that put them at risk and harm for life changing events,” said Stubbs. She continued, “Adults are providing the space and allowing underage drinking to happen. I am here to ask that you support the social host ordinance. Because you have a duty to protect us when there is clear evidence of harm.”

Mother Sarah Roitz offered compelling testimony, “I ask for our city council to join in solidarity with parental efforts to raise our children in a new social expectation of preventing under-age drinking and the effects that it influences. My efforts to promote healthy habits should not be determined by other adults who believe it’s better under their roof. I hope other parents realize they are not just handing over an alcoholic beverage. They are handing over potential alcohol dependency, drug exposure and abuse, teenage pregnancy, and school failure to name a few. I hope your efforts as our city leaders will be able to make a difference to help foster a new social norm to raise my daughter in. A city that works alongside it’s parents in raising our future generations.”

Texans Standing Tall CEO Nicole Holt was elated with the city council’s unanimous vote on this model ordinance. “The city council demonstrated great leadership today in protecting youth from alcohol – the substance most used and causing the most harm to our youth. This policy, a tool for law enforcement, will protect youth from the harms associated with underage alcohol use and adults bad decisions. I call on other communities to follow San Antonio’s example.” Ms. Holt stated.

TST is the statewide nonprofit organization that is actively working to create healthier and safer communities by using evidence-based strategies to prevent youth access to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. As part of its work, TST supports coalitions in addressing underage alcohol consumption in their communities, resulting in statewide prevention impact.

CONTACT:
Kazia Conway, Communications Specialist
Texans Standing Tall
o: 512-442-7501 c: 254-466-6637
TexansStandingTall.org
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Prevent Risky Behavior This Holiday Season

As finals put a bow on the fall semester, high school and college students are beginning to make plans to get together for parties or reunions as friends gather back home. With time on their hands and a festive season, there are many opportunities for the dangers of alcohol use to jingle all the way into their young lives. Along with the holiday gatherings comes the frightful increase of alcohol-fueled risky behavior like unwanted or unplanned sex, fights including alcohol-related car crashes. With the semester ending, now is an extremely important time to discuss the dangers of drinking and driving with the youth in your life.

Many parents believe allowing their children and their children’s friends to consume alcohol under their roof encourages healthier attitudes toward alcohol, but in truth, alcohol consumption by underage youth increases the risks of unwanted or unplanned sex, fights, homicides, and suicides. Parents also believe that taking the keys away from youth will prevent them from drinking and driving, but they may not be aware that youth are more likely to binge drink outside of the home when parents allow alcohol consumption in the home. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drivers ages 16-20 are 17 times more likely to die in a car crash when they have a high blood alcohol concentration compared to when they have not been drinking. The CDC also reports that the chances for alcohol abuse increases when people begin drinking in their teenage years and The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that 90 percent of addictions begin in the teenage years.

Modeling good decision-making with alcohol is an effective approach to preventing your teens from making risky choices. Parents should also consider a “rules of the road” contract with their youth. Studies show that the children of parents who establish and enforce rules around alcohol make positive decisions when it comes to drinking and driving.

A good way to lead any conversation with youth is to remind them of the Zero Tolerance Laws in Texas, which makes it illegal to consume alcohol under the age of 21. It does not matter if the substance is provided by a friend’s parent, it is still illegal in the state of Texas.

Texans Standing Tall is a resource for coalitions and communities across the state working to address youth social access to alcohol. A long-term, community-based solution that TST educates about and promotes is a strategy called a civil social host ordinance. A civil social host ordinance is a city ordinance that holds people accountable for providing the location for underage drinking parties. Our partners at Circles of San Antonio are working toward a healthier and safer community through a social host ordinance. The city of El Paso recently passed such an ordinance. We are hoping to see many more around our state.

If you are interested in learning more about how a civil social host ordinance works:

  • visit our website
  • contact TST’s Strategy Specialist Brian Lemons
  • contact Community Mobilization Coordinator Libby Banks.