The City of Altus achieved the Merit level of Oklahoma Certified Healthy Community and Business status this week. This recognition is available statewide through the Oklahoma Turning Point Council and the Oklahoma State Department of Health. It recognizes entities that have made changes to make health and wellness a priority.
In order to reach Merit level, the City of Altus implemented an ordinance to the Code of Ordinances in October 2017 that prohibits the use of smoking products on city properties.
Chapter 20, Article IV defines smoking as “the carrying by a person of a lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe or other lighted smoking devices,” but the amendment does not include vaping or tobacco-free products as they are not lighted smoking devices or prohibit smoking on streets and sidewalks.
While city ordinances have long included smoking prohibition at indoor workplaces, child-care facilities, public places, public transportation vehicles, schools and state- and city-owned vehicles, some may argue that the list of places one can light up is shorter than the list of places one cannot.
“We hope this achievement will not only encourage us to be more aware of our overall health,” Assistant City Manager Matt Wojnowski said, “but to also take steps to improve our own health and motivate others to be healthy.”
Despite the amended ordinance, Chief Tim Murphy told the Altus City Council at the Oct. 18 meeting when the ordinance was passed that it would be difficult to enforce.
City Manager Janice Cain told the council at the same meeting that the amendment is more of a tool for public facilities to set a standard for wellness and healthy living and not necessarily about penalties.
Reaching merit level makes the community eligible for as much as $50,000 in healthy living grant money without increasing taxes and puts the community in line for further recognition as a Certified Health Community past the basic eligibility status. The grant money could be used to fund public health initiatives, programs and services.
Achieving Excellence status as a Certified Health Community is still possible as well. Prerequisites include an ordinance prohibiting the use of tobacco and vapor products, proof of affordable fresh fruits and vegetables available in the community, a walkability assessment, a group of community and municipality members engaged in local strategic planning addressing public health needs and a provision of safe storage and proper disposal of prescription drugs.