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Faith Leaders Convene to Advocate for Smoke-Free Communities

Faith Leaders Convene to Advocate for Smoke-Free Communities

Faith Leaders Convene to Advocate for Smoke-Free Communities

See a visual story of shared learning, discussion, commitment, and fellowship at the Faith in Health Collaborative in the Sac Hub Photo Gallery at:

Sacramento, CA hosted the Faith in Health Collaborative, a joint effort by Saving Our Legacy African Americans for Smoke-Free Safe Places (SOL Project) and Sac Cultural Hub Media Foundation on February 12, 2024, at Fixins Soul Kitchen in Oak Park. Faith leaders, community advocates, health experts, and citizens gathered to discuss concerns and embark on a call to action to address secondhand smoke from tobacco and marijuana use, particularly among youth, and its impact in Sacramento County's housing and outdoor spaces.

The luncheon opened with a deeply moving video of a spoken word poet, Ryon Everidge, illustrating the tobacco industry's relentless targeting of African Americans. The piece “How Long Will You Target Me?” commissioned by the American Heart Association, urged attendees to reconsider how they developed their habits and rallied others to inspire their congregations and communities to quit smoking or vaping to live longer, fuller lives. The following discussions focused on alarming statistics and documentation revealing deliberate marketing and sponsorship tactics aimed at communities of color, prompting a call for unified action through awareness campaigns and grassroots efforts to combat the tobacco industry’s continuing predatory practices.

Speakers emphasized the link between early initiation and long-term health issues, advocating for interventions in homes, schools, and communities. A staggering 90% of smokers start before age 18, increasing their risk of disease, disability, and harms that can impact nearly every organ of the body. Participants also felt it is important to raise awareness that smoke-free housing and public spaces can protect the most vulnerable in our communities. 

Nonsmokers in families and neighbors, particularly babies, seniors and pets are at risk when exposed to secondhand smoke. The CDC reports there is no safe amount of secondhand smoke exposure. Secondhand smoke causes disease and early death in children and in adults who do not smoke and at home is the main place many children and adults breathe in secondhand smoke.

Faith leaders made a commitment to declare their support for tobacco-free communities, highlighting the alignment between spiritual health guidance and public health initiatives. The seven churches represented committed to actively engage in supporting tobacco prevention events such as "No Menthol Sunday" in May and “Breaking Free from Nicotine Day,” in November to educate their congregations and celebrate those on the journey to being smoke-free.

Additionally, information was shared on opportunities for partnerships, grants, and other community resources to aid in building healthy, smoke-free communities for all. A presentation was given on the California State Library’s Stop the Hate campaign and the Hugs Not Hate Student Poster Contest, both aimed at combating hate crimes and fostering safer, more inclusive environments. While smoking is often turned to as a stress reliever, it's crucial to recognize the serious health risks associated with this harmful coping mechanism. Partnering with other community efforts to cultivate healthier environments and support networks can promote the adoption of healthier coping strategies and provide valuable resources for individuals seeking alternatives to smoking.

Participants left the luncheon armed with knowledge to push back against the pervasive influence of tobacco industry on youth and communities of color; connect community members who want to quit smoking with resources to quit; and educate community members about the benefits of smoke-free communities.


Empowering Local Communities to End the Tobacco Epidemic (#22-10403) is a project under the auspices of The SOL Project-Saving Our Legacy Africa Americans for Smoke-Free Safe Places funded through Heluna Health.

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