Coalitions in Action: Gwinnett County Drives Home Change to Mobilize their Community for Success
Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services, a DFC grantee and CADCA member, developed a number of environmental strategies to reduce tobacco use, which helped prevent youth from smoking and allowed all Georgians to breathe easier.
The coalition’s tobacco strategies were instrumental in leading their county, and, ultimately, the entire state of Georgia, to pass a Clean Indoor Air ordinance. The task was not an easy one to accomplish, considering Georgia has one of the lowest tax rates for cigarettes, unchanged for more than 20 years at 38 cents per pack.
The already uphill battle was also challenged with their county’s smoking rates, also unchanged for several years: 27 percent of their adults aged 18 and older were daily smokers, with a state-wide 22 percent average smoking rate. Tobacco use among youth in Gwinnett County was second only to alcohol use.
There was work to be done.
“To say we had a lot of work to do was an understatement, “Ari Russell, Executive Director of GUIDE, Inc. and active coalition member, stated at CADCA’s recent National Leadership Forum.
“But we were determined to press on and start organizing a workgroup.”
Gwinnett County Public Health first applied and was awarded a tobacco prevention grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Upon receiving the grant funding, the Smoke Free Gwinnett Workgroup was formed specifically to establish the strategic plan of action for the county and execute those evidence-based measures tactfully. Once the workgroup decided that they would focus on secondhand smoke exposure, they began building “public will.”
“We launched a Smoke-Free Home campaign, distributed a smoke-free restaurant guide with tip cards, organized a support network of advocates for clean indoor air, advocated for tobacco products to be placed behind the counter and recognized local businesses that were voluntarily smoke-free or changed the product placement in their stores,” Russell said.
The strategies worked: Within three years, three cities in Gwinnett County adopted clean indoor air ordinances. About 18 months later, the entire county adopted a clean indoor air ordinance. Soon after, the Georgia Legislature passed a statewide clean indoor air ordinance. The Gwinnett Coalition subsequently formed a Youth Advisory Board that organized “Why Smoke?,” a peer-focused tobacco prevention campaign. They also encouraged the Board of Education to adopt the 100 Percent Tobacco Free Schools Policy, mandating visible signage at every school. Postcards announcing the policy were sent to more than 10,000 homes.
Those strategies led to an expanded focus on tobacco prevention at the sixth-grade level, a method that prevents tobacco use among youth, according to evidence gathered by the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.