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A Petition To Ban All Unhealthy Behaviors In Mecklenburg County

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92883137-fat-peopleThe Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners (“MeckBOCC”), while exercising the powers of a local board of health, will soon be voting to ban all smoking and tobacco use in County, City, and Town buildings, as well as vehicles, county parks, and public grounds. MeckBOCC Health and Human Services Committee members George Dunlap, Karen Bentley, and Pat Cotham voted in favor of sending the ban to the full Commission after the opportunity for public comments. The vote was originally scheduled to take place on Sept. 17, but was delayed to gather additional input from town officials throughout Mecklenburg County.

I write today to the honorable members of the MeckBOCC to encourage their life saving effort to eliminate from within the county borders all remnants of tobacco, that shameful cash crop so many North Carolina farmers have profited from for generations. The citizens of Mecklenburg County have long suffered the evils of chronic disease resulting from tobacco and secondhand smoke and the passage of an ordinance requiring a Tobacco Free Mecklenburg is long overdue. I would only ask that members of the MeckBOCC seize the opportunity the delayed vote has presented to expand the current tobacco ordinance to include a ban on all unhealthy behaviors related to chronic disease. If we can save the lives of an estimated 580 Mecklenburg County citizens per year by creating a Tobacco Free Mecklenburg (according to statisticians at charmeck.org), just imagine the thousands of lives the MeckBOCC could save by taking the progressive step of banning alcohol, obesity, poor nutrition, and physical inactivity from all County, City, and Town vehicles, parks, and public grounds!

Pundithouse readers, I need your assistance. Write letters in support of my proposal to your representatives in county government. Please do not reject this request without at least considering the many reasons there are in favor of such an expansive ban on all unhealthy behaviors in Mecklenburg County.

The Tobacco Free Mecklenburg website already provides a compelling argument for the abolition of tobacco. But, if you simply substitute the words smoking and tobacco with poor nutrition and obesity, for example, the argument is equally compelling for the abolition of these unhealthy behaviors.

“Chronic disease is the #1 cause of death in our community with Mecklenburg County residents dying of heart disease, stroke, cancer, COPD and diabetes each year. Poor nutrition and obesity are factor(s) contributing to these deaths. Currently, [some %] of Mecklenburg County adults eat unhealthy diets and are obese. Poor nutrition and obesity cause tremendous personal suffering, lost productivity in the workforce and high health care costs.”

“Strong evidence shows that healthy diets and moderate exercise reduce obesity by preventing youth from starting [to become obese] and encouraging obese residents to cut back or quit. The goal is to reduce obesity from [some %] to 10%, which will save an estimated 580 lives per year in Mecklenburg County.”

Critics of my proposal will present myriad arguments in opposition. They will say it is impossible to quantify how many lives would be saved by banning tobacco or other unhealthy behaviors from all county property because there are too many unknown variables. They will say smoking is different from other behavioral factors linked to heart disease and chronic conditions such as completely shunning all forms of physical activity or consuming large amounts of gluten because these do not cause direct harm to those in your immediate vicinity like secondhand smoke from cigarettes and e-cigarettes. They will say an exception should be made for golfers – as if the lives of golfers are not worth saving. Finally, they will say there is no basis in state law allowing for such an expansive act of county government, state law only allows local governments to restrict smoking in public places, not other unhealthy behaviors.

To these would be critics, I submit Mecklenburg County would not have publicly stated they will save an estimated 580 lives per year if such a figure was not quantifiable; consuming large amounts of gluten may not be as dangerous as secondhand smoke to those in your immediate vicinity, but think of the children; golfers at the Traditional Golf Course matter as much as golfers on any golf course in Mecklenburg County and no exception should be granted them for continued tobacco use; and there isn’t time to wait for the legislature in Raleigh to craft the necessary enabling legislation when attempting to act in the best interests of the residents of Mecklenburg County to protect the public health and welfare!

I would again encourage the honorable members of the MeckBOCC to make the logical choice in expanding the language of their current ordinance against tobacco to ban all unhealthy behaviors from all County, City, and Town vehicles, parks, and public grounds. How inconsistent it would be to make Mecklenburg “Tobacco Free” in order to save 580 lives when we could make Mecklenburg “Free From All Unhealthy Behaviors Related To Chronic Disease” and save thousands if not tens of thousands of lives.

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