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Leading Public Health Organizations Urge Augusta-Richmond County Commission to Oppose Cigar Bar Exemption That Would Jeopardize Youth and the Black Community

Groups Express Concern Over Rushed Process Amid Continued Public Health Crisis

August 30, 2021

AUGUSTA, GA — August 30, 2021 — As the Augusta-Richmond County Commission tries to rush an amendment to the county’s smoke-free ordinance that would allow smoking in certain indoor spaces, leading public health organization are urging the county commissioners to oppose this effort to weaken Augusta’s effective smoke-free protections.

The ordinance is being considered at tomorrow’s committee meeting on August 31.

The following statement is on behalf of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association,Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and Entertainers Speak Out.

“We strongly oppose this attempt led by Commissioner Jordan Johnson to weaken Augusta’s smoke-free law by allowing cigar bars. This proposal will only help Big Tobacco, while threatening the health of Augusta’s workers, youth and the Black community.   

“As Georgians continue battling COVID-19, county leaders should be strengthening public health—not weakening it. The fact that this amendment is being rushed forward in the middle of a pandemic is alarming. Everyone has the right to breathe clean air and no one should choose between their health and a paycheck.

“Excluding cigar bars from strong smoke-free laws gives Big Tobacco another opportunity to take advantage of and aggressively market their deadly products to youth by normalizing their use and minimizing risks. Black youth experience a disproportionate impact. In fact, cigars are the most popular tobacco product among Black youth, outpacing both e-cigarettes and cigarettes—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.

“If we allow cigar bars, there’s no telling what will come next. It 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. We cannot allow Augusta to set this dangerous precedent. 

“Big Tobacco has spent decades on deceptive marketing to youth and the Black community that tobacco use is ‘glamorous and cool’, while profiting off their death. It’s time to put the health of Augustans, our youth and the Black community first. We urge the county commissioners to reject this harmful proposal once and for all.”

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About ACS CAN at 20 
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) makes cancer a top priority for policymakers at every level of government. ACS CAN empowers volunteers across the country to make their voices heard to influence evidence-based public policy change that saves lives. We believe everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer. Since 2001, as the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN has successfully advocated for billions of dollars in cancer research funding, expanded access to quality affordable health care, and made workplaces, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free. As we mark our 20th anniversary, we’re more determined than ever to stand together with our volunteers and save more lives from cancer. Join the fight by visiting www.fightcancer.org

About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy, and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.

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