City ordinances are an excellent way that U.S. cities vision for and address important issues- whether it’s a health issue, safety issue, welfare issue or an issue of morality. The type of ordinances that caught my eye in regard to public health was- public smoking ordinances. Public smoking, other than the discomfort it causes for some, and the overall unpleasant odor and air, is a significant public issue due to its link with secondhand smoke, or SHS.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines secondhand smoke as, “a mixture of the smoke given by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar, and the smoke exhaled by smokers (1).” The United States EPA goes on to state that, “secondhand smoke is also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and exposure to secondhand smoke is sometimes called involuntary or passive smoking. Second hand smoke contains more [than] 4,000 substances, several of which are known to cause cancer in humans or animals (1).” What makes this a starking public health issue is that the, “exposure to second hand smoke can cause lung cancer in adults who do not smoke,” states the EPA and the, “exposure to secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths per year in nonsmokers … and exposure to secondhand smoke has also been shown in a number of studies to increase the risk of heart disease (1).”
The two cities in Texas that I sought interest in that demonstrated an ordinance against public smoking are, Austin, Texas and Brownsville, Texas:
The city of Austin addresses public smoking in its Code of Ordinances, Title 10., Public Health Services and Sanitation under Chapter 10-6., Smoking in Public Places (Ord. 20050303-05). This particular ordinance regulates public smoking by prohibiting smoking “in public place or in a park; in an enclosed area in a building or facility owned, leased or operated by the City; in an enclosed area of a workspace; within 15 feet from an entrance or openable window of an enclosed area in which smoking is prohibited; and if the owner or operator of a public place commits an offense if the person fails to take necessary steps to prevent or stop another person from smoking in an enclosed area in a public place (2).” The exceptions to this ordinance currently are, “residential dwelling units, 25% or less of guest rooms in Hotels/Motels, Retail Tobacco Stores, private semi-private room in nursing homes, outdoor areas of workplaces (> 15ft from entrance/openable windows), Bingo Facilities, and Fraternal organizations (2).”
The city of Brownsville addresses public smoking in its Ordinance Enforcement code, particularly the Smoking Ordinance 2012-1556. Taken into effect on February 2, 2013, the smoking ordinance 2012-1556 prohibits smoking, “in all enclosed public places within the City of Brownsville, including enclosed places of employment, enclosed residential facilities, and certain outdoor areas outlined … [in] the ordinance,” according to The City of Brownsville webpage (3).
The ordinances of both the cities are similar except in Brownsville’s prohibition of smoking in, “all private and semi-private rooms in nursing homes, [and] at least 80% of hotel and motel rooms that are rented to guests,” whereas, Austin declares those two as an exception (3).
Over all, these two cities show great concern for public health in their initiation of these ordinances, and it would be great to see many other cities, not only those of the U.S, but those of the world at large, follow in their footsteps.
Copyright © Sherley J. Edinbarough (Surely, Sherley and/or SurelySherley), 2014.