The Family Y of Greater Augusta has been an Augusta institution for more than 150 years. As one of our community’s largest nonprofit human services agencies, our unwavering commitment has always been to make Augusta healthier in spirit, mind and body. With a constituency of 50,000 members and another 30,000 program participants, we provide programs and services that address the needs of individuals and families regardless of age, race, religion or their ability to pay. Those who are part of our YMCA family come from all walks of life and truly reflect the diversity of the community we serve.
One of our primary focuses at the Family Y is to promote healthy living within our community. As a member of the BreathEasy Augusta coalition, we believe there are no safe levels of smoking or second-hand smoke. To eliminate the adverse health impact of secondhand smoke on the public, it is imperative to prohibit smoking in workplaces and spaces open to the public. We are not advocating a ban on smoking – it is simply asking smokers to step outside to smoke while protecting the rights of workers and patrons to breathe clean air.
While all our campuses are smoke-free, we daily witness the impact of smoking on those who come to the Y seeking rehabilitation and relief from smoking-related illnesses. Many of our members have “kicked the habit,” but are recovering from heart and lung diseases or cancer and wish they had never started smoking at all. While we don’t want to see anyone develop the smoking habit, we strongly believe that a nonsmoker has the right not to be exposed to the health-threatening effects of secondhand smoke.
We want to work together to ensure a healthy environment for all Augustans. Creating smoke-free workplaces for all workers is a positive step toward creating a healthier community for us all.
(The writer is president and CEO of the Family Y of Greater Augusta.)