The plan to ban: City of Tuscaloosa to adopt ban on tobaccoBy Jeremy Connor | 07/23/2015 8:14pm
The City of Tuscaloosa will be tobacco-free as of Jan. 1, 2016. CW | Danielle Parker
On Jan. 1, 2016, all City of Tuscaloosa facilities, grounds and vehicles will become tobacco-free. This means that anything that contains tobacco, even non-smoke producing products, will be prohibited in any area owned by the city.
“The new policy protects people from the dangers of second-hand smoke, promotes a healthier environment and reduces littering,” said the official press release from the City of Tuscaloosa.
Diedre Stalnaker, communications director for the City of Tuscaloosa, said health is the primary reason for the new policy.
“The health and safety of our employees and visitors is why the City considered this decision,” Stalnaker said.
The City also plans to help any of its staff that have addictions to tobacco, if they wish to break their addiction. This method includes an information campaign that Stalnaker said is currently being reviewed by the City of Tuscaloosa HR department.
Caroline Ciener, a UA student, said she and is very happy to hear about the new smoking policy.
“I think this policy is long overdue, especially for how widespread tobacco use is in Tuscaloosa,” Ciener said. “I’m just really excited to not have to smell it and walk through it anywhere I am out in the city. I’m also excited about the cigarette butts finally not being all over parking lots and in the grass where my dogs play.”
Ciener is originally from North Carolina, where she has experienced the influence of tobacco policies before.
“Where I’m from in North Carolina, the policy we have is no tobacco in restaurants. That was really big in our town because Winston Salem is home to RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company which is one of the biggest in the nation,” Ciener said.
Chloe McMahon, a mechanical engineering co-op at MBUSI, said Tuscaloosa’s new policy seems to have taken too long.
“Growing up, my hometown always had much stricter laws about smoking, so much so that it surprised me how often I saw people smoking in Tuscaloosa because I was so used to rarely seeing it,” McMahon said.
McMahon said he believes being able to easily breathe is a major benefit of the new policy.
“Sometimes I have to ask people to not smoke if I’m in a situation where I can’t leave, and I never like doing that. Hopefully it will also reduce littering and will help people that are addicted to smoking,” McMahon said.
In response to the City of Tuscaloosa’s statement about helping employees to break tobacco addictions, McMahon said, “I don’t think it’s the city’s responsibility, but I appreciate the efforts they’re taking since this new policy may affect some people harshly. I think it just shows that Tuscaloosa is a good community because it cares about the people here.”
Sandi West, a retired pastor and parent of a University of Alabama student, said she believes that Tuscaloosa’s new policy is fair.
“I think it is fair for all tobacco products to be banned from city property,” West said. “People are free to smoke, dip and vape on their own property and in other places.”
West said this policy makes her more comfortable about her son’s time in Tuscaloosa, but added there comes a level of responsibility.
“While I like limitations on tobacco use on public property, my son is responsible for his own health and actions,” West said.
West said a potential detriment to the new policy may be the government reaching into the territory of personal responsibility.
“While I believe it is beneficial to reduce tobacco use now and in future generations, I also recognize that each person is responsible for their own actions and their consequences. This is one issue where there is a fine line between government overreach and personal responsibility,” West said.
For more information regarding Tuscaloosa’s new tobacco policy, call Tuscaloosa 311 at 205-248-5311.