Council unanimously approves ordinance establishing smoke-free Health District
Following a public hearing on Tuesday, the Birmingham City Council unanimously passed an ordinance establishing a smoke-free Health District that encompasses the densely-used hospitals and health centers on Birmingham’s Southside.
With the passage of the ordinance, smoking on public rights of way will be prohibited within the newly-established district boundaries. Anyone who violates the parameters set forth in the ordinance could be subject to a fine. These new changes will go into effect on December 1, 2019.
Here is a copy of the ordinance that passed:
The ordinance, which is an amendment to the robust smoking restrictions passed by the Council in 2012, is the result of work done by health-focused organizations that will be within the Health District. Those include: Children’s of Alabama, Cooper Green Mercy Health Services, Jefferson County Department of Health, Southern Research, University of Alabama at Birmingham and UAB Medicine, and Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
The ordinance will not impact smoking in vehicles or within residences that otherwise allow smoking. Businesses that fall within the boundaries will have the ability to designate smoking areas on their property that are not on public rights of way.
Councilor Steven Hoyt, who quit smoking over 20 years ago, lauded the collective efforts of the City, health care providers and UAB officials for their work on establishing the district.
“I certainly support this ordinance having been a smoker. I had to apologize to my wife constantly. It’s an addiction. It’s a demon,” Hoyt said. “I had a friend of mine who was smoking and I told him it offends me, I don’t even care if that makes me a hypocrite. I had a mother-in-law who died of lung cancer. The issue is about raising awareness. People didn’t think they could survive without smoking in restaurants but here we are today. Hospitals and health care facilities should have the purview to make sure their patients are safe.”
Hoyt continued by saying he’d like to see the healthcare organizations who worked together on the new Health District to begin to tackle other health issues in Birmingham
“I’d like to see this same group address other health concerns like the toxins in North Birmingham and our youth who are vaping these cartridges. I think we can work together to address the overall health issues in Birmingham,” Hoyt said.
Representatives with UAB, the Jefferson County Department of Health and local hospitals outlined why this new Health District will benefit the city during the public hearing.
“This ordinance will allow organizations committed to the health of those we serve to enact meaningful policies and educational programs that make a real difference,” said Mark Wilson, CEO of the Jefferson County Department of Health.
Councilor Hunter Williams, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said he is proud that Birmingham is leading the way in Alabama as it relates to reducing the amount of second-hand smoke citizens are subjected to in public places.
“I would like to thank all of you coming here today and the work you’ve done on this,” Williams said. “Collectively you all make Birmingham a world-class medical city. The work that you all are doing is a huge benefit for Birmingham and the people who come here to utilize these amazing healthcare facilities.”