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Advocating for Change: July Smoke-Free Update

This month we have two exciting updates on local smoke-free efforts.  Wichita Falls passed a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance on June 17th and we are seeing great progress in Lubbock.

Wichita Falls

We are very excited to announce that the City of Wichita Falls passed a comprehensive ordinance on June 17th! Wichita Falls makes the 37th city in Texas to pass a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance!

Mayor Glenn Barham, Mayor Pro Tem Michael Smith, Councilman Ben Hoover, and Councilman Brian Hooker all voted YES to a comprehensive ordinance that prohibits smoking in all restaurants and bars by 2016.  This is a great accomplishment for all 104,553 residents of Wichita Falls. 

The Smoke-Free Wichita Falls coalition spent many hours meeting with councilmembers, recruiting volunteers, and getting petition cards signed throughout the city.  Many members of the coalition including Mindy Giles, Glen Rabideau, Rachel Brown, and Jackie Bush testified at multiple City Council meetings to urge the Council to support a comprehensive ordinance. 

AHA volunteers sent out numerous letters, emails, and phone calls to the councilmembers. During the day of the vote AHA volunteers delivered over 250 petition cards from Wichita Falls residents supporting a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance.  There are now over 300 Wichita Falls residents in our You’re the Cure network!  Pictured are just some of the volunteers that attended the City Council meeting. 

Thank you to all the volunteers who made this possible.   Your hard work and dedication paid off.  It is because of your work that all Wichita Falls workers will be able to breathe smoke-free air by 2016! 

 

Lubbock

The West Texas Smoke-Free Coalition has been busy fighting for clean air!  On June 26th the West Texas Smoke-Free Coalition made presentations during citizen’s comments about the public health impact of secondhand smoke exposure. 

AHA Executive Leadership Team member Dr. Scott Shurmur presented evidence to the City Council regarding a decrease in hospitalizations once a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance is in place.  Dr. Naidu Chekuru, Kavitha Selvan, Matthew Harris, and AHA Local Policy Manager Kelsey Bernstein all presented public health arguments to the Council. 

In addition to the presenters, there were over 20 hospitality industry workers in attendance!  In fact, during Matthew Harris’ testimony he asked all workers to please stand and get recognized.  This was incredibly impactful as it gave the City Council a great look at the lives that they will be directly saving if they pass a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance.  These workers as well as coalition members are pictured.  There were so many volunteers that attended that we could not fit them all in the picture!

The coalition has decided to present to Council again on July 10th.  This time they will be presenting the positive economic impact a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance will have in Lubbock.  Many business owners and workers will share their stories with the City Council during this time.  

 

 

Let us know about any smoke-free movement in your community!

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Ruthie Ewers: Smoke-Free Champion

When the City of Harlingen passed a strong smoke-free ordinance, it was like a dream come true for Texas volunteer Ruthie Ewers.  Ruthie has been the driving force behind the Harlingen smoke-free initiative that started more than 8 years ago.

Passionate about improving her community and the lives of its residents, she has been determined to protect Harlingen employees from secondhand smoke exposure since 2005.

A past president of the Cameron-Willacy County American Heart Association, Ruthie co-chaired the 2005 Smoke-Free Harlingen coalition. The coalition succeeded in expanding the Harlingen smoke-free ordinance to include most worksites, including restaurants. In February of 2014, Ruthie made it her mission to “finish the job” and ensure that ALL worksites in Harlingen would be smoke-free.

Three months later, the City passed a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance that covers all worksites, including restaurants, bars, private clubs, and gaming facilities. This public health win is due, in large part, to Ruthie’s grassroots efforts to educate and inform the mayor and city commissioners about the ordinance and to include all stakeholders in the process.

Ruthie has a reputation for rolling up her sleeves and getting the job done in her community. It’s not surprising to see a “Don’t Mess with Ruthie” bumper sticker every now and then when driving through town, and residents are lucky to have her on their side.

Harlingen residents and employees can now breathe easier thanks to Ruthie and all You’re the Cure advocates who stood up for the right to breathe smoke-free air.

Ruthie will continue working with the American Heart Association as a member of the Texas Smoke-free Leadership Council.

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Advocating for Change: Smoke-Free Update

Harlingen recently passed a strong smoke-free ordinance to join 35 other Texas cities in protecting their workers, residents, and visitors from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.  We have more information on the big win from Harlingen as well as updates from Wichita Falls and Lubbock!

Harlingen Goes Smoke-Free

Harlingen will now join 35 other cities in Texas that can proudly proclaim to be smoke free! 

During a specially called meeting on May 27, the Harlingen City Commission gave final approval to a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance that will make all worksites in the city of Harlingen, including restaurants, bars, private clubs, and gaming facilities smoke-free. 

Thanks to the efforts of You’re the Cure volunteers, who educated and encouraged the city commission to pass the ordinance, more residents will now be protected from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. During the campaign, volunteers helped secure 115 local smoke-free postcard petitions that were delivered to the city commission, emailed numerous letters to the mayor and commissioners, and testified at public hearings. 
 
AHA volunteer Dr. Victoria Parada, Stroke Director and Clinical Director of Neurosciences at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen, testified before the commission, submitted a letter to the editor to the local newspaper, and appeared on a local Fox/Univision morning show to help raise awareness about this issue. 

Erlinda Abantao, Stroke Coordinator at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen and AHA volunteer, testified twice before the commission and helped AHA staff to collect smoke-free petition cards from Harlingen residents.

A special thank you to long-time AHA volunteer and Smoke-Free Leadership Council member Ruthie Ewers, who personally reached out to the mayor and city commissioners to help them understand the need to strengthen their smoke-free ordinance, coordinated and attended meetings with the mayor and city commissioners, and testified at public hearings. Mrs. Ewers deserves a great deal of gratitude for her efforts in the Harlingen smoke-free campaign. 

Thank you to all of our You’re the Cure advocates who took action on this issue – your voices were heard! The Harlingen smoke-free ordinance goes into effect on July 1, 2014.

Wichita Falls

The Wichita Falls City Council is expected to vote on a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance on June 17th at 8:30am.  On June 3rd the Health Department presented the council with the proposed comprehensive ordinance. 

During public comments AHA volunteer Mindy Giles spoke about her time as a hospitality worker having to quit her job because of second-hand smoke exposure.  Mindy has also written this letter to the editor: http://www.timesrecordnews.com/news/2014/may/22/letter-editor-support-smoking-ordinance/.

We encourage everyone to share this story on social media and comment in support of this letter. In addition to Mindy’s testimony we had volunteers there wearing blue and a “I Support a Smoke-Free Wichita Falls” sticker to show their support.  As of today we have had 301 Wichita Falls residents sign “I Support Smoke-Free for My Community” petition cards.  The cards will be delivered to city council members on June 17th.   

Lubbock

We would like to highlight that our volunteer Michael Clintsman, owner of Local Bar and Grill, has decided to make his establishment smoke-free!  Over the past couple of months he has become very involved in the campaign as Co-Chair of the West Texas Smoke-Free Coalition and believes that this is best for his business, but most importantly, for the health of his employees. 

After holding a media advocacy training with the West Texas Smoke-Free Coalition they have become very strong advocates in the media. 

Most recently, Stephen LoCascio (General Manager for Bar PM) and Coalition Chair Matthew Harris gave interviews to KCBD which aired the story on June 4th.  Please view the article that was written about it here: http://www.kcbd.com/story/25697393/west-texas-smoke-free-coalition-wants-to-end-smoking-in-restaurants-and-bars and share the article on social media.

Please contact brian.bowser@heart.org if you would like to get more involved in Smoke-Free efforts in your city!

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Smoke-Free Texas Update

There has been great progress in our smoke-free efforts in Lubbock!  On April 17th we had volunteers sign people into You’re the Cure at a booth during the Go Red for Women Luncheon at the Overton Hotel.  We had over sixty Lubbock residents sign our “I Support Smoke-Free for My Community” petition cards.  We will be handing these petition cards out to city council members in the upcoming weeks. 

The West Texas Smoke-Free Coalition chair Matthew Harris and his wife Carrie Harris volunteered their time to work our booth and attend our Go Red for Women Luncheon.  The event was very successful and motivated a lot of Lubbock residents to get involved with our smoke-free efforts.

Our very first Grassroots Action Team meeting in Wichita Falls took place on April 4th.  Our volunteers for this team consist of United Regional Medical Center employees, concerned citizens, doctors, musicians, and cancer survivors. 

Everyone in Wichita Falls has been working extra hard in getting You’re the Cure sign-ups.  Our next GAT meeting will take place sometime early this month.  We will also be meeting with all council members to discuss a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance. 

Want to get involved in your city?  Leave a comment below or email Brian.Bowser@heart.org

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Weatherford Goes Smoke-Free

The City of Weatherford (26K pop) adopted a smoke-free ordinance by a vote of 3-2 that will take effect mid-April.  The ordinance prohibits smoking in all restaurants, and bars within restaurants.  This is the 35th Texas city to go smoke-free!

Thanks to all of the YTC advocates for their support on this issue!  

We want to hear from you:  Would you like your city to go smoke-free?  Tell us your story in the comments below.

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North Texas Cities Consider Going Smoke-Free

Two cities in North Texas have recently expressed interest in passing smoking ordinances to cover more public places.  Irving and Grand Prairie have both held public hearings on this issue and are welcoming input from residents on this issue.

If you are in the area and would like to get involved please contact Brian.Bowser@heart.org.  We need to demonstrate the widespread support for strong smoke-free laws and City Council members need to hear from you!

The American Heart Association supports comprehensive smoke-free laws that protect all workers, residents, and visitors from secondhand smoke.  We believe everyone deserves the right to breath smoke-free air and that nobody should be forced to choose between their health and a paycheck. 

Things could move fast in the New Year so keep an eye out for action alerts and let us know if you would like to get more information.

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Smoke-Free Update: San Marcos Becomes #33

On October 3rd San Marcos became the 33rd smoke-free city in Texas when their City Council overwhelmingly approved a new ordinance that will now cover all workplaces including bars and restaurants.

Volunteers for the American Heart Association and the Smoke-Free Texas coalition were critical to this effort by attending City Council hearings, providing public testimony, making phone calls, and sending emails.  We applaud the Mayor and City Council for passing this ordinance that will reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke for workers, residents, and visitors in San Marcos.

Stay tuned for more from around the state as several other cities are also considering going smoke-free!

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