Live Tobacco-Free Austin: Educating the public on the dangers of tobacco use in Travis County, Texas
Tobacco use is the leading cause of premature death in Travis County, Texas. In Travis County, which includes the city of Austin, 11.5% of adults were current cigarette smokers and 15.3% of adults used some type of tobacco product in 2013. Statewide, 15.9% of adults smoked cigarettes and 18.9% of adults used some type of tobacco product in 2013.
To educate residents about the dangers of tobacco use, the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department (ATCHHSD) implemented the Live Tobacco-Free Austin campaign in 2011. Through both traditional media and social media, the Live Tobacco-Free Austin campaign developed media messages to raise awareness about the burden of tobacco use, promote cessation services, and educate the public about the impact of secondhand smoke. ATCHHSD also partnered with a local hospital to offer cessation classes at locations throughout the county that use the Mayo Clinic Model for treating tobacco dependence.1
ATCHHSD has also worked with community partners to implement initiatives to reduce tobacco use prevalence and exposure to secondhand smoke in the community. Supplementing the City of Austin’s comprehensive clean indoor air smoking law, ATCHHSD assisted a variety of organizations in Travis County in developing tobacco-free campus policies at their facilities. ATCHHSD has provided draft policies, implementation timelines, templates, signage, and promotional materials. As a result, tobacco-free policies have been implemented at health clinics, hospitals, businesses, multi-unit housing settings, and universities throughout Travis County as well as in the public transit system and parks in Austin.
Organizations that instituted tobacco-free campuses have reported successes and benefits. For example, in 2011 the local mental health and substance abuse provider Austin/Travis County Integral Care (ATCIC) initiated a tobacco-free campus policy at its 36 clinics and 4 residential treatment facilities across the county. As a result, between 2010 and 2013, staff smoking rates at ATCIC decreased from 28% to 10.2% among its 700 employees. Overall, ATCHHSD’s efforts have resulted in the implementation of over 40 tobacco-free policies at organizations throughout the county, reaching over 1.7 million residents.2
The tobacco use epidemic can be stopped. Research has documented the effectiveness of laws and policies to protect the public from secondhand smoke exposure, promote cessation, and prevent initiation by young people.3 Efforts at the local level, like those in Travis County, are instrumental in fighting the tobacco epidemic.
3U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta (GA): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2014. Printed with corrections, January 2014.
Live Tobacco-Free Austin campaign
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