BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi is generally last in so many issues concerning health, but today our state came in first. Seven cities in the state went smoke free in 2010. In all, 40 Mississippi cities are now smoke free.
Cynthia Hallett has been the Executive Director for the Americans for Nonsmokers Rights group since 1997. Each year, the organization gives an award to the state that passes the most 100 percent smoke free laws.
"Americans for Nonsmokers Rights always wants to give recognition for those who work diligently to pass these 100 percent smoke free laws that are designed to protect worker health and patron health," said Hallett.
But getting those laws passed can be tricky.
"It's not necessarily easy to pass a smoke free law," Hallett explained. "It's the right thing to do, but it's a very politically charged issue to work on because you're up against such a big opponent. The tobacco companies do not want these smoke free laws to pass."
"We've got a lot of partners in the state," said Mary Currier with the Mississippi Department of Health. "The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, the Heart Association, the Lung Association; A lot of folks are on board with this because they know how much second hand smoke affects health."
Hattiesburg was one of the cities to pass a smoke free ordinance. The city's mayor said he hopes the move will influence others to do the same.
"I think you're setting the tone," said Mayor Johnny DuPree. "The more people and more cities that are speaking out in support of being smoke free, then I think more cities will do the same thing."
Nationally, more than 454 cities and counties have already done just that. Workers with the Department of Health say their next goal is to get the entire state to do the same.