Area mayors unite in campaign against smoking in public

Area mayors unite in campaign against smoking in public

October 13th, 2015 by Steve Johnson in Local Regional News

Becky Barnes, administrator at the Hamilton County Health Department, speaks during an event at the Tennessee Riverpark to announce the Mayors' Smoke Free Community initiative on Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Among the mayors standing with her are, from left, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, Lookout Mountain, Tenn., Mayor Carol A. Mutter, East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert, Signal Mountain Mayor Dick Gee and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, center, speaks at an event at the Tennessee Riverpark to announce the Mayors' Smoke Free Community initiative on Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Standing with him are, from left, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, Lookout Mountain, Tenn., Mayor Carol A. Mutter, East Ridge Mayor Brent Lambert, Signal Mountain Mayor Dick Gee, Red Bank Mayor John Roberts, Soddy-Daisy Mayor Rick Nunley, Lakesite Mayor Ken Wilkerson and Collegedale Vice Mayor Tim Johnson.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, center, speaks at...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Billboards are unveiled as people gather for an event at the Tennessee Riverpark to announce the Mayors' Smoke Free Community initiative on Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Billboards are unveiled as people gather for an...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Sara Wright from the Avondale Head Start arrange a group of children as people gather for an event at the Tennessee Riverpark to announce the Mayors' Smoke Free Community initiative on Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Sara Wright from the Avondale Head Start arrange...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said it was easy deciding where to focus his attention for a new countywide health initiative.

"Tobacco is the No. 1 cause of death that is preventable in the county," he said. "Ten times as many U.S. citizens have died of cigarette smoke than have died in all of the wars the U.S. has fought."

So Coppinger and 10 other Hamilton County mayors are banding together to launch a campaign against smoking in public. And he said he will ask the area's legislative delegation to give local towns the authority to ban smoking in public parks and open spaces.

Many of the mayors were present Monday morning for a news conference at the Tennessee Riverpark to announce the initiative.

A billboard campaign was unveiled, featuring a photo of all of the mayors with the slogan, "The Mayors Say It's Time for a Smoke Free Community."

Those billboards will remain up for a month and then be replaced by new ones featuring a photo taken at this morning's event, according to Tom Bodkin, spokesman for the county health department. Smaller metal signs saying "Thank You for Not Smoking" will be installed at parks and public spaces in the 10 towns and Hamilton County, Bodkin said.

The campaign is focused on secondhand smoke — smoke from cigarettes that is directly inhaled by those nearby — and thirdhand smoke, the residue left behind on smokers' clothes, furniture or even pets.

About a quarter of all adults in Hamilton County smoke, according to Janie Burley, Tobacco Settlement Fund coordinator with the health department.

"This will give smokers fewer places to smoke, and maybe force some of them to quit," Burley said after the press conference. "Most smokers want to quit."

The campaign also opposes the use of e-cigarettes, which use battery-powered vaporizers, in public spaces.

"Research has started to come out showing that the same toxic chemicals in cigarettes are also in e-cigarettes," Burley said.

The campaign will be paid for with a small portion of funds from the settlement of a lawsuit against four major tobacco companies.

Those participating in the initiative include Hamilton County Mayor Coppinger and Mayors Katie Lamb (Collegedale), Andy Berke (Chattanooga), Brent Lambert (East Ridge), Ken Wilkerson (Lakesite), Carol Mutter (Lookout Mountain), John Roberts (Red Bank), Janet Kelley Jobe (Ridgeside), Dick Gee (Signal Mountain), Rick Nunley (Soddy-Daisy), and Bill Trohanis (Walden).

Contact Steve Johnson at sjohnson@timesfree press.com, or at 423- 757-6673, or follow him on Twitter at stevejohnsonTF-P.


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