Strides are being made to promote a tobacco-free Washington County and the Washington County Board of Supervisors are assisting in that endeavor.
During their Aug. 3 Monday meeting, the board voted to adopt an ordinance prohibiting smoking in public places in Washington County after hearing from Tasha Banks of the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition (MTFC). Banks services Sharkey and Issaquena counties, which have already adopted such ordinances, along with Washington County.
“Secondhand smoke is just as bad as the person that’s actually smoking and we’re not telling people that they can’t smoke, but smoking in public buildings is prohibited,” Banks said.
She explained while some municipalities have adopted such ordinances, they only cover the city limits. Adopting a county-wide ordinance addresses that and extends to those businesses within municipalities that have no such ordinance.
During the BOS’ regular Monday meeting, board attorney Willie Griffin explained a concern about the language of the ordinance and recommended it be modified for proper enforcement. While the ordinance does carry a fine (not yet specified) after the first warning for violation of the ordinance, Banks said the aim is not to cite individuals every instance, but to educate them on the harmful effects of tobacco.
“Education is the key to success,” she said, noting she would work with the Sheriff’s Department in an effort to make sure the Tobacco Free Coalition’s mission to impart knowledge, not punishment, is realized. “Hopefully, one day when we have enough municipalities and counties, the legislatures will then pass a state-wide ordinance because that is the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition’s goal,” Banks said.
The MTFCs are community-based coalitions that work to prevent the initiation of tobacco use among youth, reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, promote tobacco cessation services, and eliminate tobacco-related disparities.