New Year? New smoke-free ordinance! In last month’s Compass, we mentioned how we look forward to celebrating more success in 2017, but we didn’t expect to see it happening so soon! The UNIDAD Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalition in the Rio Grande Valley has worked to pass two more smoke-free ordinances already this January.
On Jan. 3, Donna and Weslaco joined Alton, Edinburg, Mission, and Pharr on Hidalgo County’s list of smoke-free ordinances. Hidalgo County is now home to six of the 60 cities in Texas with smoke-free ordinances.
In addition to preventing the use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes inside restaurants, clubs, bars, and other buildings, Donna smokers have to be 25 feet from a building entrance or window when they light up. In Weslaco, that distance is 20 feet. Businesses in both cities will receive information on the new ordinances and will have 30 days to comply and before the city begins enforcing the new laws.
A major benefit of a smoke-free ordinance is decreasing the number of Texans exposed to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke contains a mixture of over 4,000 chemicals, more than 50 of which contain cancer-causing agents (carcinogens). Young children are particularly vulnerable to secondhand smoke because their lungs are not fully developed. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, tobacco related disease cost the state approximately $17.7 billion.
UNIDAD is aiming for a smoke-free county, and one day TST hopes to see a smoke-free state. Increasing the number of smoke-free ordinances across the state helps put a dent in the 498,000 youth under the age of 18 alive today that will ultimately die from smoking related illnesses. We take the health of Texas youth very seriously; it is the reason for our quest to create healthier and safer communities.
We happily applaud the efforts and successes of the coalitions working to create smoke-free communities. UNIDAD will have our continued support in pushing for the positive impact a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance has on the community they serve.
TST offers training and technical assistance for communities working to enact smoke-free ordinances. If you are interested in bringing TST’s expertise to your coalition, please contact Steve Ross for more information.