Smoking Ordinance In Every Jefferson County City

After claiming a victory this week in Fultondale, the Jefferson County Health Action Partnership wants a "no exception" smoking cigarettes ordinance adopted in every Jefferson County city.

That means smoking cigarettes would be prohibited in all enclosed public places, including private clubs, bars and workplaces -- even work vehicles.

Many outdoor public places are included as well, such as construction sites and the common areas of apartment buildings. As for enclosed residential facilities, smoking cigarettes would be prohibited in all nursing home rooms and all hotel and motel rooms.

The ordinance is considered the "gold standard" and only Fultondale has adopted it in Jefferson County, said Michael Hansen, a spokesman with The Modern Brand Company, the public relations partner for the health action group.

The next target cities are Birmingham, Bessemer, Gardendale, Hoover and Homewood, he said.

"Our goal is to gain the adoption of a 100 percent smoke-free policy that includes workplaces, restaurants and bars," Hansen said.

The partnership, which includes the Jefferson County Health Department, is working with a $13.3 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant is for both obesity and buy cigarettes prevention, Hansen said. The grant reaches well beyond passing smoking cigarettes ordinances and includes a widespread public awareness campaign.

Organizers are hoping that a domino effect will take hold in Jefferson County after Fultondale's action on Monday. But people opposed to the ordinance said it goes too far and infringes upon the individual rights of business owners.

Alvin Currington, a Gardendale City Council member, said the partnership has not approached the council there, but he personally has reservations about a new ordinance. He said Gardendale already has a smoking cigarettes ordinance that protects the public.

"We don't have any restaurants that currently allow smoking cigarettes," he said. "There is no smoking cigarettes in all of our public buildings. But to me, maybe it is too intrusive to start going to private business owners and telling them you can't have smoking cigarettes. If a guy owns a hotel and wants to allow smoking cigarettes on the top floor, I don't really know if we should tell him how to run his business. If you had a business owner with a private office with one or two other people and they allow smoking cigarettes, I don't know if we should restrict that."

Currington also questions the restrictions on private nursing home rooms, which he considers a private residence. But he said he was not speaking for the entire council.

John Douglas, owner of Home Field Sports Grill in Fultondale, has voiced opposition to the new ordinance in his city, which he feels will hurt his business.

"I am a smoker," he said. "It is a dirty, rotten, unhealthy habit. Five out of my six kids don't smoke cigarettes and I wish it were six out of six. But I am a business owner and these decisions should be left up to me. Nobody holds a gun to anybody's head. People can vote with their dollars and feet."

Fultondale Mayor Jim Lowery stands behind the ordinance. He said anybody who believes the research about secondhand smoke cigarettes and cancer should support it. He calls it a cancer ordinance, not a smoking cigarettes ordinance.

"We waited for several years for the state to take some kind of action (on smoking cigarettes)," he said. "They didn't so we passed an ordinance and we didn't make any exceptions. Nobody can come back and say 'you made an exception for them, what about us?' Everybody will be regulated by the same ordinance.

"I would like to see the state adopt this," Lowery said. "It is a sound ordinance. We had three or four drafts that we considered, some had exceptions. When I met with the state and county health departments and they laid everything out in front of me, I think we adopted a model ordinance."

According to the 2010 U.S. Surgeon General Report, even occasional exposure to secondhand smoke cigarettes is harmful. Supporters of the comprehensive smoking cigarettes ordinance said everyone, including people who work in bars and restaurants, have the right to breathe smoke-free air.

Fultondale has joined 13 other Alabama cities with the comprehensive smoking cigarettes ordinance, Hansen said. None are located in Jefferson or Shelby counties, although Fairfield's ordinance comes close, Hansen said.

Fairfield's ordinance lists a few exceptions for cigarettes store retail stores and hotel and motel rooms, according to city information.

While efforts are under way to get the ordinance passed in the five target cities, none of those cities has reached the point of voting on the ordinance, Hansen said.

Bessemer could be the one to watch, said Majorie Swain, policy coordinator with the American Lung Association.

The Bessemer Soul Walk is planned for 8:30 a.m. today at DeBardeleben Park, which will honor the approximately 800 people who die each year in Alabama due to exposure to secondhand smoke.

Swain said the walk will also gauge public support for the cause. If the support is there, the action group may approach city officials sooner than later, she said.

As with most cities, the biggest challenge will be select business owners, Swain said, especially in the bar and grill industry.


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