How Smoke Bans Improved Air Quality in New York and Atlanta
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was proud to announce that the city’s air quality recently reached its highest level in nearly half a century. In addition to the dramatic impact of smoking bans, public health officials credit buildings using lower-pollution heating oils or opting for cleaner-burning natural gas with the annual prevention of 800 deaths and 2,000 emergency room visits and hospitalizations.
If a city with approximately 8 million diverse residents known for their headstrong personalities can make this change, I began to wonder what, if any, changes were taking place in other cities. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that in Atlanta (where I live) many programs and policies—most of which I have been taking for granted—are in place to improve our city’s air quality.
One of best-known programs is the Clean Air Campaign. With some of the infamous traffic in the nation, the Clean Air Campaign’s mission is to improve air quality by focusing primarily on reducing traffic congestion, which is a vital part of Atlanta’s journey towards healthier air. Clean Air Campaign promotes telecommuting, ride-sharing, public transportation, and has even partnered with schools to find unique ways to improve air quality so that students can enjoy the air on their campuses.
Atlanta has also passed laws to reduce smoking in restaurants. In fact, smoking is not permitted inside restaurants that allow patrons or employees under 18. Although not legally required, many bars in the city are even choosing to go smoke-free, based on the changing tastes of its customers.
Perhaps the most important step Atlanta has taken is banning smoking in public parks. Just over one year ago, the city became the largest in the South to make this change and instituted even steeper punishments than New York City. According to a New York Times article, visitors who decide to light up in one of Atlanta’s many parks could face fines up to $1,000, as well as six months in jail and community service.
With these changes (and more!) in place, I am confident that Atlanta will soon join New York and other major cities that have reached air improvement milestones.
Is your city taking steps to help its citizens and visitors breathe easier? Tell us about them in the comments.