Breatheasy Augusta launches education campaign to continue fight for tougher smoke-free ordinance

About 20 people gathered Thursday around a Breatheasy Augusta banner outside Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building to launch an education campaign and vow to fight for a stronger smoke-free ordinance.

Among them was Augusta Commission member Corey Johnson, who said he would like to bring the failed ordinance back for a vote, possibly in September or October.

Johnson said he wants to “help make Augusta a healthy place to play, work and live.”

Faced with colleagues who voted against it as a government intrusion into business, Johnson said, “It’s going to be tough.” It might be offered as a referendum for voters to decide, he said.

Health advocates from the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and public health are part of the coalition, which plans to start a Facebook page, launch a Web site and hold community events, said Eric Bailey, the Georgia director of grass-roots advocacy for the American Cancer Society.

The group will also take information directly to bars and restaurants and get the public involved, he said.

For instance, the group points to much higher lung cancer death rates in Richmond County and in the East Central Health District, compared with the state rate, as evidence the area is suffering the consequences.

Those looking for a stronger ordinance are not going to give up, said Dr. Terrence Cook, an Augusta allergist and a former chairman of the Richmond County Board of Health.

“We will be back and we will be back until it happens,” he said.

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