Coalition again attempts to make Augusta smoke free, starting with GRU’s Summerville campus
An Augusta group is attempting to spread the word about the health hazards of smoking and the effects of second-hand smoke. Again.
A year ago, the Breathe Easy Coalition went before the Richmond County Commission to propose a county wide smoke ordinance. Although the ordinance did not pass, members of the coalition are continuing to spread the message before bringing the ordinance before the committee again.
Jennifer Anderson, the director of respiratory therapy at Georgia Regents University, is the chair of the Breathe Easy Coalition and an advocate for healthy living for the community.
May marks Anderson’s 40th year in respiratory care. That, along with her own health issues, is fueling her latest push for healthier living conditions for people in all work environments.
“We have a number of people in our community who may not have the opportunity to work anywhere but a bar, and they end up smoking a cigarette for the entire time they are at work,” Anderson said. “A lot of these people have families and they have to work and put food on the table and they have to work in that environment. We would like for everyone to have the opportunity to work in a smoke-free environment.”
Right now, the coalition’s goal is to educate the community on the harms of secondhand smoke and to try to influence the community in a way that steers it from the unhealthy lifestyles of smoking, Anderson said.
“There are a lot of communities across the country that are going smoke-free and some entire cities,” she said. “Savannah just recently went smoke-free, and there are a lot of communities that go smoke-free and it really does improve businesses in a lot of ways.”
One event that the group is standing behind is the ban of tobacco use on the Georgia Regents’ Summerville campus.
“That is where it’s starting,” Anderson said. “We are working toward that for our community, and our group is a part of trying to help the campus at Summerville.”
Walt Alexanderson, the interim director of Human Resources at GRU, not only supports a tobacco-free campus, but he also supports the goals and teachings of the Breathe Easy Coalition.
“The goal really is not to move the use of tobacco off campus,” Alexanderson said. “It’s to educate people to stop using tobacco because the use of tobacco, mainly smoking, results in long-term negative health consequences, and that just raises the cost of our society when we have to take care of people who have developed disease because of their use of tobacco.”
Although the goal is not necessarily to make people quit smoking, Anderson and Alexanderson both agreed that having restrictions on where people are allowed to smoke will be beneficial to the entire community.
One smoker voiced his opposition to the plan.
“We are all adults,” said Dennis Myers, a junior at GRU. “We should be able to do what we want. We shouldn’t have the school tell us what to do with our lives. (They could) set up a smoking area further from the doors, but don’t take away someone’s right.”
Even though there are a number of people vocally against the campus tobacco ban, Alexanderson said that, for the most part, there has been an even split of people on both sides.
“The medical community, of course, is saying the use of tobacco is detrimental to your health, and as a medical university we want to encourage people to be healthy,” he added. “Those are the issues we are dealing with.”
The ban of tobacco products on the Summerville campus will begin on August 1, and Anderson said she believes that this will impact the Breathe Easy campaign in a positive way, especially when they present their ordinance again before the county commission.
“I think what happened is that it kind of got muddied a little bit because it went for a vote, but it was unclear exactly what the ordinance was attempting to do,” Anderson said. “I think that’s what happens when those meetings move forward pretty quickly. There’s not a clear understanding of exactly what you are voting for.” You Might Also Like: