Faith Leaders Convene to Advocate for Smoke-Free Communities

by Chief Editor, Pleshette Robertson

On Feb 12th, 2024 there was a resounding call for action affirmed at Fixins Soul Kitchen in Oak Park – Sacramento as community leaders, health experts, and concerned citizens converged for the transformative Faith in Health Collaborative luncheon presented in partnership by The SOL Project-Saving Our Legacy Africa Americans for Smoke-Free Safe Places and Sac Cultural Hub Media Foundation. This pivotal event addressed the pressing concerns surrounding tobacco and marijuana use, particularly among youth, and its impact in housing and outdoor public spaces in Sacramento County emphasizing the urgent need for comprehensive tobacco prevention measures.

See all the photos that display a visual story of shared learning, discussion, commitment and fellowship in the Sac Hub Photo Gallery at:

The luncheon opened with a deeply moving video of a spoken word poet  exemplifying the soullessness of the tobacco industries enduring efforts to capture African Americans as smokers leaving  an indelible mark on the attendees. This visual poetry aimed to evoke reflection among the audience, compelling them to reevaluate their own habits and inspire others to embark on the journey to quit smoking or vaping.

A compelling segment of the luncheon delved into the troubling statistics that expose the tobacco industry’s intentional targeting of communities of color. Through strategic marketing, event sponsorships, and visually appealing advertisements, the industry has successfully ensnared a significant portion of the population. Leaders stressed the need for a united effort to counteract these insidious strategies through community awareness campaigns and grassroots activism.

In the ensuing panel discussion, experts unpacked the historical context of tobacco industry targeting. Attendees were provided with a nuanced understanding of the systemic issues at play, creating a collective resolve to dismantle these predatory practices. The call to action reverberated, with attendees pledging to become advocates against the targeted advertising that jeopardizes the health of their communities.

Statistics dating back to the 1950s, revealed that a staggering 90% of smokers commence their habit before turning 18. Concerns deepened as the discussion unfolded on the increased health risks faced by young people, including heightened susceptibility to lung and heart diseases, as well as strokes at an unnaturally young age. The urgent call to address this crisis and shield the younger generation from the perils of tobacco became a prevailing theme.

Keynote speakers, armed with compelling data, expounded on the correlation between early initiation and long-term health consequences. The discourse transitioned from awareness to actionable steps, prompting discussions on implementing age-specific interventions in schools and community spaces. Educators and parents alike left the luncheon armed with knowledge to fortify the younger generation against the pervasive influence of tobacco.

In a moving segment, faith leaders shared their plans for integrating tobacco prevention into their pastoral duties. The synergy between spiritual guidance and public health resonated as leaders pledged to make their places of worship tobacco-free zones. This strategic alliance between faith and health promised a formidable front against the tobacco epidemic, blending morality with public health imperatives. Participants were encouraged to leverage their influence to educate and guide their congregations toward healthier lifestyles.

Key events on the horizon, including “No Menthol Sunday” scheduled for May 19, 2024, and a proposed virtual meeting on April 8th, were highlighted. Attendees were encouraged to actively support these projects, participate in these events, marking their calendars with dates that hold the promise of furthering the cause of tobacco prevention. Information about grants, partnerships, and funding opportunities were also made available for participants.

Attendees were also made aware of California State Library’s Stop The Hate campaign whereby the Sac Cultural Hub Media Foundation is presenting the Hugs Not Hate Student Poster Contest with a deadline to submit by March 8, 2024. Addressing the root causes of hate crimes is crucial for promoting a safer and more inclusive society, which can certainly contribute to reducing stress and improving mental well-being for everyone affected. However, it’s important to note that smoking as a stress reliever is a harmful coping mechanism with serious health consequences. While it’s important to address stressors in society, promoting healthier coping mechanisms and providing support for individuals dealing with stress can also help mitigate the risk of increased smoking rates. This might include access to mental health resources, community support networks, and education on healthy stress management techniques.

During the Q&A session, a participant raised a pertinent question about strategies to address the intentional placement of tobacco retailers in neighborhoods. The discussion shifted towards the harm reduction strategy, focusing on reducing the number of tobacco retailers and implementing retail ordinances. A participant emphasized the need for community awareness, educating residents about the implications of having an abundance of tobacco retailers in their neighborhoods.

As we navigate the road ahead, fueled by the momentum of this event, we anticipate a groundswell of initiatives and collaborations that will redefine the health landscape of our community. Together, we march towards a future where tobacco’s grip is loosened and the vitality of our neighborhoods is revitalized in the hopes of a smoke-free tomorrow.

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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