As a musician who also battles asthma, being able to breathe freely is crucial to Jamie Kent’s work and way of life. On and off the stage, Kent uses his voice to advocate for smoke free and vape free environments for everyone. Kent is the chair of Musicians for a Smokefree Tennessee, a coalition of artists, songwriters, businesses, and public health partners that encourages Tennessee to go smoke free inside all music venues and bars.
The Tennessee Non-Smokers Protection Act, signed into law in 2007 by Governor Phil Bredesen, makes it illegal to smoke in most workplaces in Tennessee. However, there are exemptions. Musicians for a Smokefree Tennessee wants to change that.
“As a long-time artist who battles asthma, I can personally attest to how these gaps have impacted my work and my health. I’ve had to cancel shows, end concerts early, and throw out merchandise, simply because a venue still allowed smoking. My hope is our coalition will make it so no Nashvillian ever has to choose between their health and livelihood again,” Kent said.
The group recently scored a major win. The Tennessee legislature passed a pre-emption repeal bill allowing local governments to regulate smoking and vaping in music venues and bars.
“Our coalition launched with this goal two years ago, and it’s been a long and wild road to get here,” Kent added. “So now it’s just really exciting to have cleared that huge legislative hurdle and be at a place where we can really improve the health of Nashvillians and our creative working class.”
While Kent is buoyed by the victory, he says pre-emption remains an obstacle in all areas of public health. “My hope is that our approach and recent win might provide a bit of a blueprint for other organizations to slowly chip away at pre-emption and work to regain local control over more public health issues in the years to come. The more local control we have, the better we can respond to public health crises as a community.”
If you or your organization wants to get involved with Musicians for a Smokefree Tennessee, Kent says there are several opportunities. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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