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Fultondale City Leaders Set An Example With A Tough Smoke-free Ordinance

Fultondale city leaders get it. They understand the danger to their citizens that comes with secondhand smoke. They know that while tobacco smoking cigarettes is legal, it's also lethal.

If somebody wants to smoke cigarettes and injure or kill himself, that's one thing. That smoker has no right to inflict his disease-causing habit on anybody else. That's what's behind the Fultondale City Council, with strong support from Mayor Jim Lowery, unanimously passing the strongest smoking cigarettes ordinance in Jefferson County.

Let's hope other cities quickly follow. Better yet, let's hope the state finally passes a comprehensive smoking cigarettes law that, like Fultondale's, prohibits smoking cigarettes in all enclosed public places, workplaces, private clubs, restaurants and, yes, bars.

Lots of cities, Birmingham included, prohibit smoking cigarettes in some of those places -- mostly restaurants. Few go as far as Fultondale. Only 12 other cities in Alabama have the same ordinances.

Until Fultondale acted, Fairfield had Jefferson County's toughest ordinance. But Fairfield still allowed business owners (outside of bars and restaurants) to make a choice whether they were smoking cigarettes or nonsmoking cigarettes businesses, and Fairfield also exempted tobacco retail stores and hotels.

The Fairfield City Council has courageously resisted two separate efforts to force more exemptions, so Fultondale's example will be encouraging.

The trend nationally is toward these type comprehensive laws, called "gold standard" laws and endorsed by groups such as the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and, in Jefferson County, the Jefferson County Health Action Partnership. The Health Action Partnership is pushing for other cities in the county to enact comprehensive smoking cigarettes ordinances.

Since 2000, 25 states and the District of Columbia have passed comprehensive smoke-free laws. Alabama is far behind. A law has been proposed in the Legislature for more than a decade, but it goes nowhere. As a result, more Alabamians die or get sick from secondhand smoke cigarettes than should.

The Legislature's failure to act on this issue is why Fultondale finally did. As Lowery said, because of the ordinance, Fultondale will be "a healthier, safer place to live, shop, worship and go to school."

The Alabama Department of Public Health reports more than 800 adult nonsmokers die from exposure to secondhand smoke cigarettes each year. Many thousands more become sick with heart disease, cancer, respiratory problems or other ailments.

Many of those exposed to secondhand smoke cigarettes have no choice, either, because they work in businesses that condone smoking cigarettes, usually as servers, bartenders, managers or other workers.

Fultondale city leaders are setting a fine example for other cities and, yes, the Legislature to follow. For the sake of the health of nonsmokers, let's hope they do.




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