By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed an ordinance to establish a non-smoking Health District on Birmingham’s Southside. The ordinance prohibits smoking on city sidewalks and streets, as well as other outdoor public places within the district.
Locations and areas in the district surround Children’s of Alabama, Cooper Green Mercy Health Services, Jefferson County Department of Health, Southern Research, University of Alabama at Birmingham and UAB Medical Center and the Veteran Affairs Medical Center.
Representatives from many of those organizations were at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Anyone who is found violating the ordinance can be subject to pay a fine. The new changes are set to go into effect on December 1.
It will not affect smoking in vehicles or within residences that otherwise allow smoking. Businesses that fall within the boundaries will have the ability to designate smoking areas on their property that are not on public rights of way.
Councilor Steven Hoyt, who quit smoking more than 20 years ago, applauded the collective partners for efforts to improve the health of Birmingham citizens.
“I think the issue is not just policing but raising awareness…I do think if you are a hospital and are in the business of saving lives I think you have the purview of what happens in and around that facility,” said Hoyt.
Councilor Hunter Williams, who is chair of the Public Safety Committee, also applauded the group’s efforts.
“I would like to thank all of you for coming here today, collectively each one of your organizations make Birmingham a world-class medical city both from the education and research and patient care sides. I think the work that all of you guys are doing is something that is a huge benefit to the city of Birmingham,” said Williams.
“The entities within the Health District are leaders in promoting wellness through education, research and healthcare that help the residents of Birmingham, Jefferson County and beyond live better lives,” said Mayor Randall Woodfin. “I am grateful for the leadership of these organizations, and I join the Birmingham City Council in full support.”
Dr. Susan Walley, pediatrician at Children’s of Alabama and professor of pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said the Health District is a significant and meaningful way of progress to improve the health of citizens.”
The goal, she said, is to promote the health and wellness of the patients, staff, visitors and students that live, work, play and recover from illness.
“Tobacco and tobacco smoke exposure is a leading cause of preventable death and disease here in Alabama…,” Walley said, “smoke-free ordinances do improve the health of communities… the organizations here are committed to the education as well as providing resources for smoking cessation to improve the health of our citizens.”
Timing is good for the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
“The VA went smoke free this month,” said Birmingham VA Medical Center Director Stacy Vasquez, “and this ordinance will enable the VA to focus on decreasing tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure for the health and well-being of those who serve or have served our country.”
UAB News contributed to this post.