UNIDAD TPCC Passes Two More Smoke-Free Ordinances

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.

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.