By Natasha Ryseff

It is important to remember that health and the protection of our health need to remain in focus.  Breathe Easy Fayette is fighting to protect all of Fayette County’s residents from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke exposure every day of every month of every year! As we work throughout the county, it is very surprising to hear that even after Georgia passed its Smokefree Air Act in 2005, 67% of Fayette County respondents report still experiencing secondhand smoke exposure!*

Why should those that choose better for themselves fall victim to secondhand smoke? Why should anybody that has made an effort to stay safe from tobacco have to change their routines and activities to avoid secondhand smoke? It has been 18 years since Georgia leaders made an effort to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke in public places. That law is now outdated and fails to ensure protection from new and emerging products and in the places that pose the greatest risks. We can’t afford to wait another year.

Based on a recent survey of Fayette County residents, 81% of surveyed respondents think that secondhand smoke is “VERY HARMFUL.”* They’re not wrong. Secondhand smoke contains over 70 cancer-causing chemicals. Secondhand smoke is also a risk factor for other serious health problems. Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can increase the risk of a heart attack. Secondhand smoke is a contributor to many lifelong ailments that limit our ability to live life fully.

Unfortunately, the burden to avoid someone else’s smoke is placed on citizens, rather than the individual who wishes to smoke. Fayette County citizens want and deserve better. We know because they’ve told us so:

At a Breathe Easy Fayette event at La Hacienda restaurant in Fayetteville on February 18, several attendees shared why a smoke-free environment is important to them.  The singer for the band that night, named Baby Doll, said that “A smoke-free environment…is very important for us (entertainers). I lost a dear friend of 14 years from secondhand smoke; she never smoked in her life, but she was in an environment where people did smoke.”

Another participant, Vanessa Johnson, implored “Make sure that you’re not smoking in an area where other people are because the smoke gets in our clothes, it gets in our hair, and it causes all types of health problems”.  Vanessa elaborated, “It was not until I joined the military and worked with coworkers who smoked that I realized that the smoke was harmful to my health.  One coworker smoked a pipe and the other smoked a cigar.  I was constantly going to the doctor for sinus infections and allergies.”

The bottom line is that we have a responsibility to our friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens to eliminate this unnecessary risk to their health. Unlike other self-harming behaviors, secondhand smoke doesn’t have an abrupt or tragic outcome that occurs in an instant. It doesn’t get the attention that a drunk driving accident or a drug overdose has. It’s time to answer to the damage that we know is occurring even if it doesn’t draw fanfare. If we don’t act, we are all responsible. Please consider this serious initiative and support Breathe Easy Fayette with your signature.

*Based on 4,271 responses to Drug Free Fayette’s 2022 Secondhand Smoke Survey sent to 6th-12th grade students and their parents.

Natasha Ryseff

Natasha Ryseff lives in Peachtree City.  She is a Registered Nurse and Tobacco Treatment Specialist who works in a cardio/pulmonary rehabilitation program in Fayette County.

About Breath Easy Fayette

Breathe Easy Fayette is an alliance that includes Drug Free Fayette, Fayette FACTOR, Piedmont Fayette Hospital, Georgia Department of Public Health, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the Center for Black Health and Equity, and several other organizations that are based in Fayette County. For more information, and to support a smoke-free environment, visit  You can also send an email to or call 678-489-3279.