Leading Public Health Groups: Augusta Cigar Bar Exemption Will Jeopardize Health of Workers, Youth and the Black Community
AUGUSTA, GA — September 7, 2021 — Today, the Augusta-Richmond County Commission approved an amendment to the county’s smoke-free ordinance that will allow smoking in certain indoor spaces. Leading public health organizations are deeply disappointed in this move, which will harm the health of residents.
The following statement is on behalf of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Americans for Nonsmokers Rights, the American Lung Association, American Heart Association and Center for Black Health and Equity:
“We are deeply disappointed in today’s vote by the commission that weakens Augusta’s smoke-free law by allowing cigar bars. This move will only further help Big Tobacco, while threatening the health of Augusta’s workers, youth and the Black community, which is why we strongly opposed the amendment throughout.
“As Georgians continue to battle COVID-19, county leaders should be strengthening public health—not weakening it. Everyone has the right to breathe clean air and no one should have to choose between their health and a paycheck.
“Excluding cigar bars from strong smoke-free laws gives tobacco comapnies another opportunity to take advantage of and aggressively market their deadly products to youth. Black youth experience a disproportionate impact. In fact, African American middle and high school students have the highest rates of cigar use compared to other races—making youth cigar use an issue of health equity. Additionally, Black Americans experience higher death rates from tobacco-related illnesses and are more likely than any other racial and ethnic group to be exposed to secondhand smoke.
“Allowing cigar bars will also send youth the false message that smoking is acceptable as an adult and it will undermine our current law that helps normalize smoke-free environments.
“Today, local commissioners put profits and tobacco companies before the health of Augustans, our youth and the Black community.”