Monday, December 22, 2008

What Tyler, Dallas, and Corpus will mean for Smoke-Free Texas

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When looking at factors that will contribute to passing a statewide smoke-free bill next session I don’t think you can overstate the importance of local communities going smoke-free and “paving the way” so to speak. Cities like Tyler, Dallas, and Corpus Christi have all passed comprehensive smoking ordinances since the Texas Legislature adjourned in May of 07. State lawmakers will return on January 13th and so will we in support of Smoke-Free Texas.

Local communities going smoke-free help a statewide movement in several key ways:

-Momentum
With two big cities going smoke-free including the second most populous in the state, we have great momentum heading into the legislative session. Just look at the effect Houston had when they went smoke-free just before the start of the 07 Session.

It was questionable whether a statewide smoke-free bill would even be filed. One strategy was to educate the public and lawmakers on the issue in 2007 and 2008 and then file legislation in 2009. Houston changed all of that. After their smoke-free ordinance passed not only was legislation filed, but it ended up garnering 60 co-authors getting passed out of committee, and getting passed by the House. It went on to pass a Senate committee before finally dying in the Senate before a vote could be taken.

-Socially Acceptable
When lots of cities go smoke-free, smoke-free laws become more socially acceptable and smoking indoors in public becomes less socially acceptable. Remember when you could smoke on airplanes?? Thankfully, that was outlawed years ago and now it would be unthinkable to light up in a plane.

Right now in many places it is still socially acceptable to smoke in bars and other worksites. One of our main obstacles is to change that "acceptability" factor.

-Less Drastic
Another way that cities going smoke-free will help our statewide effort is that it makes a statewide law less drastic. No lawmaker is in favor of “big government” or telling local communities what to do, so if only 5% of a state is smoke-free it will be tough to convince legislators to pass something that will cover the other 95%. Conversely, if 60-70% of a state is already covered it is easier to take a step that will cover everyone. Which brings me to my next point…..

-Unincorporated Areas
The more cities going smoke-free underscores the need for a statewide law because county governments can’t enact smoke-free laws. Simply put, this means that even if every city in the state goes smoke-free a significant amount of Texans will not be covered because many business fall outside of city limits in what is called “unincorporated areas”

The need for action by our state legislators is no more apparent than when discussing unincorporated areas. They are the only ones who can shore up the pockets of state that are unincorporated and unprotected.

-Level Playing Field
Another product of many cities going smoke-free is the appearance of an “un-level” playing field among business. Some cities have smoke-free laws while others do not. Some have strong comprehensive ordinances while others have less restrictive laws. As stated above unincorporated areas don’t have any smoke-free laws meaning a suburban community could be next door to a city with a strong ordinance.

What you have is a hodgepodge of different laws that can be confusing and hard to follow. We favor one simple law that will cover all worksites in the state.

Can you think of any other ways that Tyler, Dallas, and Corpus can help a statewide bill pass next year? Post any comments below....

Brian Bowser
Grassroots Coordinator
American Heart Association

Brian.Bowser@heart.org
512.433-7169

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Corpus Christi Goes Smoke-Free!

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The Corpus Christi City Council just voted in favor of strengthening their smoke-free law to cover all workplaces! The measure passed by a 6-3 vote and will eliminate smoking in all bars, billiard halls, bingo halls, and other worksites.

With Dallas going smoke-free last week and Corpus Christi taking this step today we are well on our way towards making Texas Smoke-Free. Thanks to all of the You’re the Cure advocates who helped make this possible.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Breaking News....

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Dallas City Council passes comprehensive smoking ordinance!! Thanks to all of the You're the Cure advocates who made this possible. Final vote count: 10 in favor 5 in opposition.

Other details on the ordinance:

-The Smoke-Free law will cover all restaurants, bars, billiard rooms, bingo halls, and other entertainment venues.
-No smoking will be allowed within 15 feet of an entrance
-The law will go into effect on April 10
-The only establishments that were excluded from the law are tobacco shops and cigar bars generating at least 15% of revenue from the sale of tobacco or tobacco related products.

Live From City Hall

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11:30 am The Dallas City Council is currently debating strengthening the current local ordinance. There was discussion on whether to delay the vote. There was a motion, but it failed.

Stay tuned for more details...

Currently, those individuals opposing the smoke-free ordinance are speaking. Each side will have 12 minutes.
12:12 pm A motion was considered to allow both sides 5 extra minutes to speak. The motion passed.
12:34 pm Those in favor of smoke-free Dallas are now speaking. American Heart Association volunteer and co-chair of our State Advocacy Committee Dr. Amit Khera is first at the podium.
1:10 pm Comments from the general public have concluded. Now each council member will comment on the ordinance. Discussion on proposed amendments will follow.
1:30 pm Discussion is still underway. We've made it easy for our volunteers and staff to stay involved today. Boxed lunches are available in the common areas and many of us are sharing lap tops to stay connected. (posted by Terri Broussard on behalf of Brian Bowser)
1:40 pm Many of us from Austin are scheduled for a 2:30pm flight out. We expected the vote have wrapped by now. We're trying to rebook our flights. I'm amazed at the number of AHA National Center Staff that are still here. The support has been overwhelming and we are grateful for their participation. (posted by Terri Broussard on behalf of Brian Bowser)
2:00 pm We believe from a statement by a council member that we just gained one YES vote. However, the council is still going at it strong and each council member is making a statement. (posted by Terri Broussard on behalf of Brian Bowser)
2:01 pm It sounds like they are about to vote on an amendment to grandfather in pool halls (and make them exempt from a smoke-free law), as well as prohibit smoking in cars if a child is a passenger. (posted by Terri Broussard on behalf of Brian Bowser)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Now is the Time

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The Dallas City Council just concluded a briefing on strengthening its smoke-free law to include all workplaces. It is clear that while there is support from many council members, not all are convinced that now is the time to make Dallas Smoke-Free.

We need to make it clear that there is no better time to protect workers, reduce heart disease and build healthier lives than right now! Please go to http://www.SmokeFreeTexasNOW.org/ and tell the Dallas City Council to clear the air.

The Council announced it would take a vote next Wednesday, December 10th. We only have one week to convince the remaining members to make Dallas Smoke-Free. If you live in Dallas please take action today at the site above. If you live outside of Dallas, please forward the url above to friends, family, and colleagues in Dallas.

Now is the time!

Brian Bowser
Grassroots Coordinator
American Heart Association
512.433-7169
Brian.Bowser@heart.org

Monday, December 1, 2008

Smoke-Free Dallas Racks Up the Endorsements

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The Smoke-Free Dallas campaign continues gain endorsements. Last week the Dallas Morning News wrote another editorial on the benefits of smoke-free air. This is at least the third in the last few months:

“The Dallas City Council's proposal to ban smoking in bars and pool halls is entirely consistent with its public-health obligations. It's also common sense.

Click here for the full story.

And today Lance Armstrong wrote an Op-Ed that appeared in the DMN:

“The Dallas City Council has a great opportunity to make a major advance against cancer this fall, and I am honored to add my voice to the many urging them to extend the ban on smoking.”

Secondhand smoke is also a leading risk factor for heart disease and other serious health problems. Click here for the rest.

Note: You may have to be registered to view the articles from the DMN, but's its free if you wish to sign up.

Keep in mind, we are less than two weeks away from the vote. Visit http://www.smokefreetexasnow.org/ to ensure Dallas is the next city to go Smoke-Free.

Brian Bowser
American Heart Association
512.433-7169
Brian.Bowser@heart.org

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Smoke-Free Dallas: One Step Closer

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Yesterday, a committee of the Dallas City Council met again to discuss strengthening the current local ordinance. The committee recommended a smoke-free law that would include ALL workplaces and make Dallas completely Smoke-Free.

The proposal will be heard next Wednesday, December 3rd in front of the full City Council. A vote could take place on December 10th! This is a big step in the right direction of making Dallas the next major city to go Smoke-Free.

But our work is not done. We need to continue letting council members know the importance of protecting all workers from the harmful affects of secondhand smoke. Here’s what you can do:

-Go to http://www.smoke-freetexasnow.org/ and take action today.
-Send the website above to 10 of your friends, family, and collegueges in Dallas to help spread the word
-Attend the December 10th Council meeting to show your support. Email me if you can make it and receive a free Smoke-Free Texas t-shirt.

Thanks!

Brian Bowser
Grassroots Coordinator
American Heart Association

Brian.Bowser@heart.org

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Smoke-Free Dallas Needs Your Help

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Things are heating up in the fight to make Dallas smoke-free. Last night a special committee of the Dallas City Council met to further discuss strengthening the local ordinance. Big tobacco was out in full force – but so were we. We need to continue to let the Mayor and City Council know Dallas residents want smoke-free air.

Please visit http://www.SmokeFreeTexasNow.org to send your letter of support to the Mayor and City Council. In just two clicks you can pave the way for clean air and a healthier city.

The committee will meet next Monday 11/24 and a vote by the full council could take place as soon as December 3rd. Now is the time to show your support!

Brian Bowser

Friday, October 24, 2008

Smoke-Free Corpus Christi

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Greetings! We are making progress with the Corpus Christi Smoke Free coalition! Below are some highlights:

We have secured the Mayor’s support for strengthening the city’s current smoke-free ordinance, as well as support from some council members. We anticipate seeing this item on the city council agenda on November 18 and NOW is the time to show Mayor Garrett and the city council your support.

In addition to mayor and city council support, we recently received a resolution in support from the Nueces County Medical Society. NCMS is one of the area’s well-respected health organizations, so this is an important measure of support. Their support, along with the Corpus Christi Caller Times and a host of local community organizations, are important to helping us advocate before the city leaders.

Our efforts to reach out online increased with the debut of the coalition website. Volunteers can find our more details about the coalition, the effects of secondhand smoke, business impact data, etc. Volunteers can also sign up for the coalition through the site. Please visit wwww.smokefreecorpuschristi.org

The next coalition meeting is Friday, October 24th at noon at the American Cancer Society office. It’s located at 4101 South Alameda in Corpus. Please feel free to join us!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Texas Legislature—The Interim

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The Texas Legislature adjourned May 28th 2007 and won’t reconvene until January 13th 2009. While we are entering the first weeks of Fall it may seem like the dogs day of summer at the Texas Capitol. No state laws can be passed during the interim period that we are currently in, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done.

Each legislative committee holds their own interim hearings to study issues that affect all Texans, there was a primary election last spring and there will be a general election next month, and each member is developing their own agenda for the upcoming session.

That makes it all the more critical for AHA to get our priorities on the radar of lawmakers now. We simply can’t afford to wait until the beginning or middle of the legislative session to ask for Smoke-Free air, or improved physical education; our window of opportunity is just too small. Lawmakers need to hear from us year round on the devastating impact that heart disease and stroke has on Texans.

That is why I’m asking you to send letters of support to your lawmakers today on Smoke-Free Texas and Childhood Obesity. Take action now and help set the stage for a successful 81st Legislative Session in Texas.

You’re the Cure.


Brian Bowser
American Heart Association
512.433-7169
Brian.Bowser@heart.org

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I'm Just a Bill

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It's always a good idea to refresh ourselves on the basics of government--especially if School House Rock is giving the tutorial. Remember "I'm Just a Bill"?




"I hope and pray that I will
But today I am still
Just a bill..."

Classic!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Special Message: Hurricane Ike

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Our Hearts are with Hurricane Victims

This is a special message in light of Hurricane Ike and the havoc that it wreaked along the Texas Gulf Coast this past weekend. The American Heart Association sends its regards to all those affected by the storm and wishes a speedy reconstruction of areas that experienced damages. We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and property that was experienced over the weekend.

While the Texas coast was hit hard and thousands of individuals are either displaced or without power this provides an opportunity to pull together as a state and become stronger.

If you would like to either volunteer time or donate money to the reconstruction effort please visit http://www.redcross.org/. Your time and money will help provide food, shelter and basic living necessities to those in need. Here are other helpful links:

-National Emergency Family Registry and Locator System: https://asd.fema.gov/inter/nefrls/home.htm

-FEMA Ike information: http://www.fema.gov/hazard/hurricane/2008/ike/index.shtm

Health Warning

The impact of a hurricane causes more than physical damage to our neighborhoods - it also causes personal stress. In these times of stress former smokers can easily fall back into old habits. If you or someone you know is being tempted by an old addiction please contact The Texas Tobacco Quitline.

The Texas Tobacco Quitline, 1-877-937-7848 is available to help Texas smokers kick the habit, reduce stress, and ultimately improve the quality of their lives. For additional cessation resources visit: http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/tobacco/

Thanks to everyone helping with the recovery effort. The collective action of dedicated individuals can truly make a difference in the lives of others.

Sincerely,

Brian Bowser
American Heart Association

Heart Disease and Stroke. You're the Cure

Friday, August 29, 2008

Around Texas

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In Texas, obesity is a major health concern affecting thousands of individuals. The Dept. of State Health Services recently requested $10 million dollars to implement obesity prevention programs across the state. Please tell Texas lawmakers to support this funding request and reduce the burden of obesity in the state.

Obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke and a leading cause of preventable death. All programs that we support are evidence based and proven to work. Please take action and help reduce obesity in Texas.

If you are not already, please join You’re the Cure and help share your voice. By taking action on the above action alerts you can help the American Heart Association achieve its mission of building healthier lives free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Thank you,

Brian Bowser-Grassroots Coordinator
512/433-7169
1700 Rutherford Ln.
Austin, TX 78754
Brian.Bowser@heart.org

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Effort to make Corpus Christi Smoke-Free Underway

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The Smoke Free Corpus Christi coalition continues to make progress in securing growing support for strengthening the city’s smoke-free workplace law. The current ordinance provides smoke-free working environments for employees in most public places, including restaurants and bars in restaurants. However, a loophole exists, which allows smoking in freestanding bars, bowling alleys, and bingo halls. Our volunteers continue their efforts to urge Corpus Mayor Garrett and the city council to approve a new ordinance removing the current loopholes. In doing so, Corpus Christi will join 21 other Texas communities with a comprehensive smoke-free law.

Also, a special thanks goes out to the following volunteers who have attended meetings and/or worked with us on this effort: Dr. Thomas Alexander, Ann Jaime, Dee Labbe, Isabel Menendez and Michele Trevino. We look forward to continuing to work with these volunteers, as well as welcome additional volunteers who would like to work on this historic effort.

Fort Worth Considers Smoke-Free Air Policy

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A recent poll conducted in Fort Worth by the American Heart Association and the Smoke Free Texas Coalition demonstrated that 92% of Fort Worth residents believe secondhand smoke is a health hazard, confirming the grassroots support for a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance. Unfortunately the city council is currently considering an ordinance drafted by the city manager that excludes bars. The Advocacy team has engaged key volunteers such as Dr. Sreenivas Gudimetla, President of the Fort Worth AHA Board, worked with the Coalition to engage in lobbying city council and also activated the grassroots network in an effort to secure passage of a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance.

Last session the Texas Legislature considered a comprehensive smoke-free piece of legislation. The bill passed the Texas House but it time ran out while in the Senate. The American Heart Association as a member of Smoke Free Texas will be strategically working with key communities to secure more comprehensive ordinances across Texas to secure victory at the Texas Legislature during the 2009 Legislative Session.

U.S. House Passes Tobacco Regulation Bill

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Statement by M. Cass Wheeler
CEO, American Heart Association,
on U.S. House of Representatives Passage
of The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act

The U.S. House of Representatives’ historic vote is a testament to how far our nation has come in understanding the deadly impact of tobacco. However, you don't start celebrating when the ball is on the ten-yard line. This will all be for nothing if we don’t score a touchdown with a win in the Senate. Each day, more than one-thousand children smoke their first cigarette. We must act now to protect those children and reduce their risk for smoking-related illnesses such as heart disease and stroke.

The industry has failed miserably in the area of moral responsibility with deceptive marketing practices to addict young and old without any concern for our nation’s public health. Senate leadership should keep this in mind and move quickly to approve the bill before Congress adjourns.

The American Heart Association commends the House for its courageous vote and Representatives Henry Waxman and Tom Davis, Chairmen John Dingell and Frank Pallone, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer for their leadership on this issue. With smoking-related cardiovascular disease claiming the lives of 150,000 Americans each year, we cannot overstress the need for tobacco regulation. We urge the Senate to follow the House in passing this important legislation.

Friday, August 1, 2008

You're the Cure

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I’d like to welcome everyone to the You’re the Cure blog for Texas. While we have posted stories for the past month or so this is my first post as…..myself! So, with that, I suppose an introduction is in order. I’m Brian the Grassroots Coordinator for the South Central Affiliate (Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas). I help manage the You’re the Cure network and drive grassroots support for all our advocacy priorities.

If you’re not already, I’d encourage you to become a member of our You’re the Cure network. Joining You’re the Cure is super easy and fun. Just sign up at www.yourethecure.org and we’ll send you timely action alerts on the issues that are important to you. We count on YTC advocates to share their voice on heart healthy policies like smoke-free air, obesity prevention, and AED placement.

If you have any questions about the American Heart Association’s advocacy department please feel free to call or email me anytime:

Brian Bowser-Grassroots Coordinator
512/433-7169
1700 Rutherford Ln.
Austin, TX 78754
Brian.Bowser@heart.org

I look forward to adding my comments on all of the advocacy news from around our affiliate in the weeks and months to come. Thank you.

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