One Atlanta and Smokefree Atlanta
A little over a year ago, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms introduced One Atlanta—the city’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion—to help create a more affordable, resilient, and equitable city. In her official statement announcing the new office, the mayor emphasized One Atlanta’s focus on shining a “light on … forgotten communities” and building “a bridge towards greater inclusiveness across the entire city.” That focus neatly aligns with the Smokefree Atlanta effort that highlights the need to ensure no one’s health is forgotten as we strive to make the city healthier for everyone who lives, works, and plays here.
One Atlanta and Smokefree Atlanta are also closely aligned in the shared commitment to improve public health, reduce health disparities, and support equity in every part of the city by ensuring everyone’s right to a safe and healthy workplace is protected. Research shows that race, occupation, and socioeconomic status play a significant role in who is afforded protections from secondhand smoke exposure, which in turn can lead to poor health outcomes. In a city where more than half the residents are African American—and one in three of those residents live in poverty—these factors become much more difficult to ignore. Consider the following:
- Heart attack, stroke, and cancer are among the leading causes of death in African Americans and Latinx communities. All of these chronic illnesses have been linked to secondhand smoke and nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at work increase their risk of stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer by 20–30 percent.
- Hospitality workers and entertainers have the highest rates of exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the leisure and hospitality sector has grown by more than 4 percent in Atlanta over the past year. While 75 percent of white-collar workers are covered by smoke-free policies, just 43 percent of food preparation and service occupation workers are afforded this protection.
- Vulnerable communities are more likely to suffer the health consequences of secondhand smoke exposure and less likely to be able to afford the treatment. African-Americans and Latinx communities are more likely to experience problems paying medical bills, according to 2016 data from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the New York Times. Among those who have issues paying medical bills, nearly 30 percent also report job loss or pay cuts as a result of the illness that led to medical bill problems.
To achieve One Atlanta’s goal of “thriving neighborhoods, communities, and businesses,” we have to ensure no one is forced to choose between their health and a paycheck. Studies have shown that smoke-free policies that eliminate secondhand smoke in public places like bars and restaurants help improve the health of workers and the general population. Several of these improvements in health outcomes, such as reductions in hospital admissions for heart attacks, begin to be realized shortly after the laws take effect. A Smokefree Atlanta is an Atlanta focused on reducing health disparities, an Atlanta dedicated to supporting equity, and an Atlanta we believe in.