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Delayed Implementation of the Smoke-free Workplace Law

When Governor Wilson signed California's smoke-free workplace law, AB 13, on July 21, 1994, it was scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 1995. Experience with similar laws passed at the local level had demonstrated the need for a period of several months of public education to achieve effective compliance. Despite several recommendations from TCS and other public health advocates, Smoley prohibited use of the advertising campaign to publicize California's then-new smoke-free workplace law.[79] At the time, Philip Morris was mounting its initiative campaign for Proposition 188 to overturn California's workplace smoking restrictions, and the tobacco industry was worried that the state would use the advertising campaign to educate people about AB 13 (see chapter 11).[80] Even after the health groups defeated Proposition 188, however, there was still no advertising to educate the public that virtually all workers had a right to a smoke-free workplace.

While the tobacco industry was unhappy about the smoke-free workplace law, it was apoplectic about the smoke-free bar provisions scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 1998. The industry made several unsuccessful attempts to get the law overturned in the Legislature, and by mid-1997 there was evidence that it would mount a major campaign to


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encourage people to ignore the law. This situation made an adequate period of public education, using the media campaign, particularly important. Indeed, TEROC specifically called for such a campaign in its 1997 Master Plan.[23]

In fact, TCS had started preparing for the January 1 implementation of the smoke-free bar law during the previous summer when it surveyed the local lead agencies to find out what information, materials, and approaches would be the best way to educate bar workers about the new law.[81] Philip Morris, through its public relations firm, Burson Marsteller, and its National Smokers Alliance, had been sending mailings to bar owners warning of severe economic ramifications if the smoke-free bar provisions of AB 13 were implemented.[82] Using Proposition 99 funds, TCS funded the ALA Contra Costa-Solano to manage a statewide program known as BREATH (which originally stood for Bar and Restaurant Employees Against Tobacco Hazards) to educate bar owners and employees about the law. BREATH created posters, handbooks, mailings, and a compendium of ideas that the LLAs could use to educate bar owners and dispel tobacco industry myths about the economic chaos that the law would allegedly trigger.

A 1996 DHS-commissioned Gallup poll found that more than three times as many bar patrons preferred a smoke-free bar as were happy with the current unregulated situation.[83] A 1997 poll by the nonpartisan Field Institute showed that 86 percent of bar patrons in California would stay in a bar the same amount of time or longer if it were smoke free, and 76 percent of California bar patrons were bothered by secondhand smoke in bars, restaurants, and other public places.[84] Even so, based on the experience of implementing the early smoke-free workplace laws, TCS wanted to educate both bar owners and employees, as well as patrons, about the new law well in advance of the effective date of January 1.

TCS asked its advertising agency, Asher & Partners, to present ideas and a time line for using the media campaign to fill this need in the spring of 1997 and expected to have radio spots and television ads running by June 1997. Despite the strong evidence that such an educational effort would help the law go into effect more smoothly, the administration put the media campaign on hold. DHS postponed the educational advertisements so as not to appear to lobby the Legislature to vote against the exemption.[85] ANR's Cynthia Hallett, who was working on implementing AB 13, rejected this argument: “Let's say they are trying to repeal the law that says you have to stop at a stop sign. Does that mean while this law


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is in debate, you don't have to stop at the stop sign? That the law will not be enforced because there is debate surrounding it?”[86] But the Wilson administration refused to prepare the public for the new law as long as the tobacco industry was trying to get it repealed. Smoley ignored the Master Plan and TCS and delayed approval of advertisements about the existing law, first proposed in May 1997, until October, a month after the legislative session ended. (Part of the delay was due to waiting for Smoley's return from a two-week vacation in China so that she could personally approve the advertisements.) It was not until late November of 1997 that DHS began running two advertisements promoting smoke-free bars—one on the radio and one on television.


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