Congratulations! You followed all the steps and your strong ordinance passed. Now more than ever, it is important to stay on your toes. Keep your coalition members active during this stage of the smokefree campaign. Immediately after the ordinance passes, consider a thank you campaign to recognize your policymakers for doing the right thing. Generate positive feedback via thank you letters, paid thank you ads, community celebrations, and letters to the editor.
What to Expect from the Tobacco Industry After Your Law
Just because local policymakers enact a smokefree air law does not mean that the dirty tricks are over. The tobacco industry will continue to seek ways to undermine a smokefree air law as long as the opportunity exists. The opposition's tricks for post-enactment are usually planned well in advance and health advocates must be prepared to anticipate these after-school antics.
Hurry Up and Wait: Attempts to delay or prevent implementation
The tobacco industry knows that once smokefree air laws have been in effect for a few months, the public quickly adapts to the new status quo and does not want to revert to the smoke-filled days of the past. The industry's number one goal is to keep the law from going into effect and opposition groups will seek to convince policymakers to repeal the law before it goes into effect.
Although some time is needed after enactment to prepare for implementation, a delay of more than 30 days can increase the probability of dirty tricks. These include the threat of a lawsuit and petitions to repeal the law. The industry's emphasis is on convincing the enacting policymaking body to reconsider its own decision.
let's create a sense of controversy
After implementation, tobacco industry allies will pursue an earned media campaign that seeks to create the impression that the new law is highly controversial and is dividing the community. The truth is that the law is typically popular, and it's the tobacco industry, not the new law, that is stirring up a sense of division. Advocates and health department staff can expect to see the media focus on isolated cases of noncompliance. If the opposition plans to collect signatures and seeks to overturn the new law via the ballot, the negative media generated by the opposition can set the stage for a campaign to defeat the measure on the ballot by reducing support among likely voters or reducing voter turnout. This is why it is important to plan an organized campaign for when the law is in effect to generate favorable media and maintain strong public support for the law. See www.goingsmokefree.org for more detailed information about implementation and enforcement of smokefree air laws.
After their statewide law passed but before it took effect, Illinois advocates worked hard to spread positive messages about the new law.
Loss: The sky is falling, and other nonsense
About 30-60 days after a law is in effect, advocates can expect to hear unsubstantiated claims of dire economic loss. Because it takes a full business cycle (e.g. one year) to assess the economic impact of a law, the opposition's goal is to create a sense of 'emergency," urging policymakers to repeal the law immediately before every business owner in town goes out of business. These tobacco industry fueled claims can also "poison the well" in neighboring communities that may be considering similar smokefree air legislation.
The negative media is often an organized and coordinated effort by the tobacco industry through its public relations firms and campaign consultants and is a major campaign step that should be anticipated by health advocates. Coalitions must plan for a sustained campaign to remind the public that the law is popular, compliance is high, and the majority of hospitality establishment owners are pleased with the new smokefree environment. This will help remind people to take the other claims with a healthy grain of salt.
lawyers and more lawyers
The tobacco industry has access to hundreds of lawyers and litigation is frequently used to challenge smokefree air laws. Usually, the industry seeks an injunction to prevent implementation of the law during the course of a lawsuit, which could last for months or even years. Communities almost always win these legal challenges, but there are issues that coalitions should plan for well in advance, including identifying funding for an amicus brief and providing information to the city attorney's office about the likely types of challenges. For more information on legal challenges, see our Legal Issues section.
Let's send it to the ballot (maybe that will work)
Depending on your local and state laws, opposition groups may have the option of seeking to repeal the law via the ballot. Referendum challenges usually accompany the first strong smokefree air law in a state. For the tobacco industry, it is worth doing everything possible to keep a strong smokefree air law from going into effect, because of the domino effect that one law will eventually have on other communities in the state.
Such challenges rarely succeed, but they can set a negative example for other communities in a state or even in other states. Before enactment of a smokefree air law, advocates should clearly think through how a ballot challenge would work: How much time would the opposition have to gather signatures? Who determines the wording of ballot questions? When would the vote occur-at a special election or the next regularly scheduled one? What are the local election laws?
If polling shows weak support for a smokefree air law, or if the tobacco industry perceives that a coalition does not have strong grassroots capacity among voters, the balance of power can shift to the opposition because they have an unlimited capacity for unrestricted money.
In Central Point, Oregon and in Pueblo, Colorado, opponents sought not only to repeal the laws but also to recall the elected officials who voted for them. Before enactment of a smokefree air law, it is important for the coalition to assess the level of public support and the organized grassroots capacity for defending both the law and the supportive officials on the ballot. The greatest strength of a smokefree air coalition is high public support and the ability to mobilize its people power.
Total Recall: Attempt to Unseat Supportive
If the tobacco industry and its allies do not like the way certain policymakers voted on smokefree air legislation, they may seek to run a slate of candidates against them in the next election. It is important for a coalition to have the capacity to uphold policymakers who support smokefree air and to hold others accountable. On the other hand, if you do not like the way an elected official votes, try to vote them out of office in the next election. This happens in any policy advocacy area and forms the basis of officeholder accountability to voters. This is not mean; it's how democracy works.
The more successful you are at the local level, the harder the tobacco industry will lobby for a statewide preemption to remove local control of smokefree laws in your state. Be prepared for a preemption battle at your state capitol and set up a Preemption Strike Force.
After your ordinance passes you will want to celebrate! And celebrate you shall. Make a big splash in your community. But keep in mind, there is still much more to do. In addition to generating positive support for the new ordinance, and keeping a close eye on these after-enactment tactics, now it is time to prepare for implementing and enforcing your new ordinance.