Allery Treatment News

No Butts About It: Texas Is Crushing Out Smoking, Unique UH Database Shows

July 10, 2017

In the last five years, Texas cities have been crushing out cigarettes and other tobacco products in restaurants, bars and worksites at a faster rate than ever before. The trend toward non-smoking ordinances is one of many findings of the Texas Smoke-Free Ordinance Database created and maintained at the University of Houston to categorize and track the progress of smoking policies in Texas cities.

"This database is a one of kind system that allows policy makers, advocates and concerned citizens to find out what's happening at the state and county levels on the issue of second hand smoke," Phyllis Gingiss, professor of public health education in the UH department of health and human performance, said.

The database is funded by the Texas Department of State Health Services and can be accessed at

Currently there are 240 Texas cities with smoking ordinances. More than a quarter of those were passed since 2000.

Users of the Texas Smoke-Free Ordinance Database can conduct searches using a city's population or percentage of minorities as criteria. They can access summaries of various ordinances in the state, select areas of interest such as bars and restaurants, or search by a specific city.

"Some users of the database are from cities that want to check out current ordinances. Others are considering new or revised ordinances, but want to check how other cities word their policies," Gingiss said. "Other users include police officers who want to see how other cities enforce their smoking ordinances."

The database is part of a larger HHP program called the Health Network for Evaluation and Training System (HNETS). HNETS provides training and technical assistance to schools, communities and healthcare organizations seeking to promote health and wellness. Activities include tobacco prevention studies, as well as research into health insurance coverage for tobacco cessation, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

"It is interesting to see is how the non-smoking ordinances have become more restrictive over the years," Gingiss said. "The emphasis for restaurants and businesses used to be just on ventilation, but since it has been established that there is no risk-free level of exposure to second-hand smoke, the trend is to become a completely smoke-free public place."

With the recent release of the U. S. Surgeon General's report that details the health hazards of second-hand smoke, use of the database has greatly increased, Gingiss said.

Other Texas Smoke-Free Ordinance Database findings include:

* Texas cities that implemented 100 percent smoke free ordinances in the last five years are Austin, Beaumont, Copperas Cove, El Paso and Laredo.

Philadelphia residents will soon be able to monitor their weight loss and get feedback about their progress online from several area churches, which are being equipped with computer stations and trained program counselors.

This community-based weight loss program is part of a four-year study of the prevention and treatment of obesity in high-risk populations led by Temple University School of Medicine, which recently received one of five grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

The research team, led by Temple diabetes expert Guenther Boden, M.D., plans to use the $4.15 million to test whether an Internet-based telemedicine system can help overweight and obese African Americans in the nearby community lose weight.

"Sixty percent of Pennsylvanians are overweight or obese, but what is of even greater concern is that urban, rural and minority populations are disproportionately affected by obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoarthritis," said Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Calvin Johnson.

For this study, Temple will partner with several African-American churches in North Philadelphia. These churches will act as computer sites where participants can access the study's Web site to update their weight loss progress as well as to access the site's moderated chat rooms, bulletin boards and e-mail.

Furthermore, members of the research team will teach individual church members how to provide counsel to study participants during the program and after it ends.

"Sustainability is one of the biggest challenges with weight loss," says Boden, professor of medicine and chief of endocrinology at Temple's School of Medicine and Hospital. "Our system will not only provide an inexpensive way to interact with patients, but also leave an active program in place for the community that will continue once the study is complete."

Temple also will collaborate with area universities and medical centers during the study. Cheyney University of Pennsylvania will conduct a survey of local neighborhoods, restaurants and supermarkets to identify what types of eating and exercise environments the study subjects deal with on a daily basis. This information will be incorporated into a summary for the participants that will include guidance on what to eat, the best places to shop for food and where and how to exercise.

Moreover, Bloomsburg University and Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., will conduct a similar program with people living in rural areas.

"We understand that both inner-city and rural residents face many of the same socioeconomic obstacles, such as access to treatment and healthcare coverage," said Temple's Carol Homko, Ph.D. "We hope to come away with effective weight loss models that can translate to both populations."

Other researchers on the team at Temple include William Santamore, Ph.D., director of telemedicine research; Gary D. Foster Ph.D., director of the center for obesity research and education; and Angela Makris, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor of medicine.


* 46 percent of cities with smoking ordinances also require municipal worksites to be 100 percent smoke-free.

* Two out of three smoking ordinances have an enforcement authority, usually a law officer.

* 48 percent of ordinances assign penalties to business for violations; 81 percent provide penalties to smokers.

Gingiss has conducted health research for more than 25 years and is the author of nearly 200 publications. Much of her research has focused on understanding and addressing the needs and concerns of children and youth and how their families, schools, communities, health-care providers and public policies can support those needs. She is currently actively working on the Texas Tobacco Prevention Initiative to track and monitor changes in schools, communities and managed care organizations regarding tobacco prevention and control.


Contact: Marisa Ramirez
University of Houston