Zach Hilton
music in the park san jose

For the past 10 years Gilroy has been a part of the South County United For Health Leadership Team with the focus on addressing health challenges such as poor nutrition, smoking, diabetes and lack of exercise that are the highest in the county. We have the opportunity now to strengthen the Gilroy City Code Chapter 19B Smoking Pollution Control policy to help our residents and visitors. 

I know that some of the best ideas we work on at City Hall come directly from constituents, and that’s exactly where this one came from. When we work together as a community, we can produce better results. I first introduced this legislation back in November 2021. It took a few more months of hard work by my office to bring it back in May 2022. That is where I was able to get a majority of the Gilroy City Council to place the item on a future agenda. From there I worked with City Staff, County Staff, Councilmembers, and the public to get the ordinance language that will come before the Council on Feb. 6.

Frequent and recurring exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) can cause health problems such as asthma, heart disease, lung cancer, stroke and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, as well as worsen a chronic illness, according to Santa Clara County Public Health. Children, the elderly, and the disabled are especially vulnerable to exposure to SHS, yet they are the least able to avoid it. The only way to fully protect nonsmokers is to eliminate smoking in all homes, worksites and public places. Smoke travels through doorways, cracks in walls, electrical outlets, ventilation systems and plumbing. Opening windows and using fans does not remove SHS. Heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems cannot eliminate exposure to SHS.

Santa Clara County Public Health Tobacco prevention unit is able to provide support with development of an outreach stakeholder plan, reports, ordinance language, and other technical assistance. They have free signage for the older multifamily residential properties. This ordinance, like with our recent smoke-free parks ordinance, will follow the path of education and encouragement. 

The County of Santa Clara Public Health Department Tobacco-Free Communities (TFC) Program is providing funding for nonprofits to support community-based tobacco prevention activities that focus on populations who suffer disproportionately because of social conditions and aggressive tobacco industry marketing. This funding is intended to recognize the assets and strengths of the county’s diverse community organizations and populations, and an opportunity for organizations to incorporate tobacco prevention activities in existing programming.

The mission of the TFC Program is to strive for optimal health of all residents and the workforce in Santa Clara County by eliminating illness and premature death attributed to the use of tobacco products, including vaping devices. The TFC Program implements activities to:

1. Prevent initiation of tobacco use and reduce youth access to tobacco products, including vaping and electronic smoking devices;

2. Reduce tobacco use, particularly among populations with the highest rates;

3. Reduce exposure to secondhand smoke and third hand smoke; and

4. Invest in strengthening community capacity and resiliency to address tobacco-related issues long-term. Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death and disease in the nation.

Thank you to those that have provided public comment in support including Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, Breathe California, Tobacco Free Coalition of Santa Clara County and to Santa Clara County Public Health Tobacco Prevention for presenting their secondhand smoke survey results at our Gilroy City Council meeting in May 2022. 

In Santa Clara County, 1 in 8 deaths annually is attributed to smoking-related illness and disease such as cancer, heart disease and respiratory diseases, according to the public health department. This ordinance combined with education and encouragement will add to the movement to change that statistic.

Zach Hilton is a Gilroy City Councilmember.

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