After decades of advocating for smokefree air at the local, state and national level, we have come to expect the unexpected. Further, 2020 has required us to be more flexible than ever in nimbly responding to a constantly changing environment. For all of these reasons, we are looking ahead to January 2021, the start of a new year – which means new laws will go into effect and bills will be introduced. Here’s what’s on the radar:
Challenges to Smokefree Air
On-site consumption of marijuana
Four states voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2020 – New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana, and Arizona – with expected rollout dates in early 2021. Legislators, along with governors and other regulatory entities, will determine the structure for implementation and enforcement of these laws. It’s essential for public health partners to engage in these discussions, in particular to weigh in on the importance of restricting on-site smoking and vaping of marijuana that jeopardizes smokefree protections. As we have seen in other states that have legalized marijuana, it is a challenge to keep attention on protecting public health when most regulatory priorities are on rolling out a new commercial industry.
As the threat of Coronavirus impacted the daily lives of Americans, leaders at the municipal level took action to protect their residents. The reality is that not everyone agrees that requiring mask wearing to protect public health is the appropriate role of government, and, unfortunately, proposed smokefree policies may be caught in the crosshairs of an increasingly partisan and emotional debate. Many state legislative bodies are considering broad preemption of local ability to address public health from mask mandates to smokefree air. The tobacco industry is credited with this tactic, called preemption, where a higher level of government prevents a lower level from passing any type of legislations in conflict with the provisions set by that higher level. Our team is activating supportive partners that represent a wide variety of issues that all share a common goal of maintaining local control so that local governments can adopt strong, innovative, and effective policy solutions to protect the health of their communities.
Progress on Smokefree Air
The good news, despite the many challenges 2020 has presented, is that there is a significant momentum for smokefree efforts. Hundreds of businesses – including casinos – have reopened as smokefree, and the movement is being led by Tribal leaders for their local casinos. There is a unique opportunity to build on this energy and call on decision makers to make temporary policies permanent by closing loopholes in smokefree laws that still allow smoking in casinos in states like Iowa, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and New Jersey. We look forward to celebrating newly passed smokefree laws that will implement in 2021 including Shreveport, Louisiana, where the local smokefree ordinance for all workplaces, restaurants, bars, and casinos will go into effect in August.