Georgia Case Study
Local Comprehensive Clean Indoor Air Ordinance in Georgia
|Healthy People 2010 Objectives||Establish smoke-free indoor air laws that prohibit smoking or limit it to separately ventilated areas in public places and worksites in every state and the District of Columbia. Increase the proportion of worksites with formal smoking policies that prohibit smoking or limit it to separately ventilated areas. Reduce the proportion of nonsmokers exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).|
|OSH Indicator||Proportion of jurisdictions with public policies for smoke-free workplaces, including smoke-free restaurants, bars, and other public places.|
|Goals||Eliminate Exposure to Secondhand Smoke|
|Components||Community Policy and/or Program Interventions|
|Areas of Policy and/or Program Intervention||Clean Indoor Air Policies|
|Intervention||Cessation: Expanding Insurance|
Policy/Program Objectives of the Intervention
Prevent the weakening or repeal of an enacted clean indoor air ordinance making workplaces, including restaurants smokefree.
Description of the Intervention
The Albany, Georgia ordinance is designed to protect nonsmokers from the health effects of secondhand smoke in workplaces, including restaurants. Over a two-year period, ordinance opponents launched serious challenges to the ordinance, including non-compliance, a threatened legal challenge, and amendments to weaken the ordinance. The Albany Coalition organized a diverse grassroots support network to threaten the ordinance.
Personnel/Key Players/Resources Required for Conducting the Intervention
The Albany Clean Indoor Air Coalition included representatives from the voluntary health organizations (ACS, ALA, AHA), the local public health department, the local hospital, and several key volunteers—two local oncologists and a lawyer.
The coalition also drew upon grassroots support in the faith community, youth, and medical professionals.
Place Where the Intervention was Conducted
Albany, Georgia is a large town in southwestern Georgia. Located on the Flint River, it serves as a regional center of commerce for a predominantly rural area. It has light industry (e.g., Proctor & Gamble, Miller Brewing, M & M Mars, and Merck), as well as a regional medical center, and Albany State University, an historically black college. It is the county seat for Dougherty County.
With a population of about 100,000, Albany is 50% African American. Albany was a key city in the Civil Rights struggle; the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was jailed in Albany in 1961.
Approximate Time Frame for Conducting the Intervention
The local coalition first organized in 1995, as the "Better Breathers" coalition. The coalition approached the city commission with a proposed smoke-free workplace ordinance, which passed in November of 1995. That ordinance, interpreted by the city attorney to apply only to businesses that opened after the effective date, went virtually unenforced. The coalition, disappointed and discouraged by the results of their initial efforts, was dormant until early 1997.
In 1997, the Better Breathers Coalition reconvened as the Albany Clean Indoor Air Coalition. The coalition initially focused its efforts on achieving enforcement of the current ordinance. In January 1998 the city commission voted to amend the 1995 ordinance to cover all businesses, old and new.
Following the amendment, the coalition shifted its focus to defending the ordinance against restaurants determined to overturn the newly expanded ordinance. Throughout 1998 – 1999, multiple citations were issued against non-compliant restaurants, and the coalition organized grassroots supporters several times against threatened amendments to weaken the ordinance.
Summary of Implementation of the Intervention
In early 1997, the American Cancer Society (ACS) hired a tobacco control coordinator. This ACS staff person helped re-energize the "Better Breathers" coalition that had come together in 1995 to pass the original ordinance. Re-formed as the Albany Clean Indoor Air Coalition, the group decided to focus its efforts on achieving enforcement of the 1995 ordinance.
With the election of two supportive city commissioners in November 1997, and support from the Dougherty County Board of Health and key city staff, the coalition ran a relatively low-key campaign to convince the city commission to amend the 1995 ordinance to apply to all businesses. The amendment passed in January 1998, and went into effect in March 1998.
In July 1998, the city commission held a work session to consider possible amendments to weaken the ordinance. The coalition packed the work session with supporters, and a week later held an "Appreciation Rally" to thank the city commission for passing the ordinance and to demonstrate widespread community support for the ordinance.
In January of 1999, facing threats of a legal challenge, the coalition staged a Smoke Free-dom march and candlelight vigil in support of the ordinance on Martin Luther King Day (January 18). The following day it packed the city commission chambers with supporters, urging the council to deny any requests for variances and resist any calls for changes to the ordinance. The coalition also used Black History Month (February) as an opportunity to educate the community, and the commissioners, about tobacco issues in the African American community.
In March of 1999 the coalition learned that a city commissioner was attempting to weaken the ordinance. The coalition mobilized grassroots supporters to attend the city commission work session, and the subsequent public hearing. This attempt failed on a 4 – 3 vote, and was the last serious attempt to weaken or overturn the ordinance.
Summary of Evaluation/Outcome of Intervention
No formal evaluation was done. However a poll conducted by the ACS about 4 months after the ordinance went into effect found that over two-thirds of registered voters in Albany supported the ordinance.
Intervention's Applicability/Replicability/Recommendations for Other Sites
The Albany ordinance was unusual in that the organizing required to enact, and then strengthen the ordinance was relatively low-key. The vast majority of the coalition's grassroots organizing efforts occurred after the ordinance passed, to defend the ordinance against attacks after it was strengthened in 1998.
This case study was written by Robin Hobart, an Office on Smoking and Health Consultant, November 2003.
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