By Michael Mumper and Paula Kreissler

Like other smoke-free areas across the country, Georgia cities and counties that have adopted comprehensive smoke-free policies are experiencing a positive impact on the health of their communities—and even economic benefits as well.

When the Breathe Easy Fayette Alliance first began its efforts several months ago to eliminate secondhand smoke exposure in Fayette County, seeing this “trickle-down” effect in other communities was very encouraging news.

Breathe Easy Fayette’s members had already sensed the overall health of a community would improve over time. What they didn’t quite expect to find was so much information on how smoke-free laws and policies have not had a negative impact on either employment or sales in restaurants and bars.

Twenty-eight states—not including Georgia—have passed 100 percent smoke-free laws that include restaurants, bars, and workplaces. While 66.5 percent of the U.S. is protected by these comprehensive smoke-free policies, only 23 percent of Georgians are covered.

In other words, being a comprehensive smoke-free community is the “new normal” throughout the United States.

In the absence of a comprehensive state law, several cities and counties across Georgia have passed 100 percent smoke-free ordinances, including the city of Atlanta, Savannah/Chatham County, Augusta/Richmond County, the city of South Fulton, and Gwinnett County.

Savannah was the first city in the state to pass a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance in August 2010.

Eight years after it was implemented, the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Tobacco Use Prevention Program and GDPH’s Epidemiology Section received CDC funding to study the ordinance’s impact.

In part, the state Department of Public Health documented a dramatic decrease in Savannah and Chatham County hospital admissions from 2010 to 2018 for obstructive heart disease, including heart attacks. Their findings mirror CDC studies showing cities that enact comprehensive smoke-free laws see up to a 17 percent reduction in hospital heart attack admissions.

During the same eight-year period, hospital admissions in both nearby Glynn and Liberty counties increased, while the state’s numbers stayed the same.

The study also found patrons were going to bars and restaurants in Savannah more frequently, according to the state Department of Public Health’s economic impact evaluation of the city’s smoke-free air ordinance. Enlisting the help of the Georgia Department of Revenue, they analyzed receipt data, which showed businesses’ bottom lines were unharmed by going smoke-free.

The study of Savannah had shown that going smoke-free did not adversely affect the economy of a city that hosts one of the largest annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the U.S. This alleviated concerns in Augusta that such an ordinance could adversely impact the bottom line of a city that hosts The Masters golf tournament. On its third attempt, Augusta passed its comprehensive smoke-free ordinance the same year the Savannah study’s results were released.

Eliminating smoking in public places has been proven to reduce the number of tobacco-related illnesses and deaths, Smoke-free policies in places of employment have also been shown to lower maintenance expenses related to cleaning and insurance premiums, including medical and fire. Smoke-free policies are also effective, high-impact strategies for helping individuals quit smoking, as well as reducing tobacco consumption by those who smoke.

For more information, and even to sign a short online form pledging your support for smokefree environments, visit You can also send an email to or call (678) 489-3279.

Paula Kreissler

Paula Kreissler is the Executive Director of Healthy Savannah, and has worked in the policy, systems, environmental change (PSE) arena for over 15 years.

Michael Mumper is the Director of Programs at Drug Free Fayette. He is also a member of the Breathe Easy Fayette Alliance, which 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, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the Center for Black Health and Equity, and several additional organizations that are based in Fayette County.