College of Health Sciences and Nursing Dean and Professor Dr. Cathy Taylor recently served on the Chronic Disease Prevention Task Force for the State of Tennessee, spearheaded by Senator Rosalind Kurita. Taylor, along with two other experts, received an invitation from the Governor’s Office, in conjunction with the commissioner of health, to act as a subject matter expert to make recommendations for improving the health of Tennesseans.
Taylor and her team, which included Belmont public health students Genevieve Delano and Deviyani Bajpai, conducted online research and interviews to make recommendations to the task force. Despite the interruption of COVID-19 on the team’s research, Taylor and her team contributed to the final recommendation to allow local authorization to limit tobacco smoking and vaping in public spaces. The recommendation was passed into legislation by the 112th General Assembly.
“Restricting exposure to tobacco or vaping products and smoke is clearly linked to better health outcomes, especially for children (e.g., fewer asthma attacks, colds and ear infections – even better school attendance and fewer SIDS deaths (Suddent Infant Death Syndrome),” said Taylor. “This legislation opens a door to a much larger issue called preemption. Preemption limits the ability to pass more comprehensive smoke free laws in Tennessee’s cities and counties.”
Tennessee’s 2007 Non-Smoker Protection Act, which prohibited smoking in all enclosed public places, was the last significant tobacco legislation enacted prior to the passing of this newest legislation. Although the passing of new tobacco regulations is a step in the right direction, the fight against tobacco use is far from over.
“Tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoke, is the single greatest contributor to preventable disease and death. It literally harms every organ in the body, yet Tennessee currently ranks 43rd in the nation for tobacco use and 44th for overall health,” said Taylor. “I’m very proud of this small step, but it’s time to do more, and that likely means taking on the hard work of addressing current laws that limit our ability to create safer, smoke-free environments for all.”
To read the official legislation, visit the Tennessee General Assembly website.