previous sub-section
The Battle over Local Tobacco Control Ordinances
next section

Conclusion

The local battles of the late 1980s and early 1990s taught tobacco control advocates several lessons.[31][46] First, they could expect the tobacco industry to intervene, although indirectly, through groups like CBRA, SRMA, CFBP, and RSVP, to fight local tobacco control ordinances. Even these groups, however, tried to stay out of the public view by providing behind-the-scenes assistance and information to mobilize local opposition. Second, as the health dangers of secondhand smoke became more widely known and believed, the only way the industry could counter the health message was to generate claims of adverse economic impact. Since these claims were not sound, the tobacco industry had to create “facts” in order to make their arguments. Such facts were often generated and circulated by public affairs firms, particularly the claim that smoke-free ordinances had reduced restaurant sales by 30 percent. Local proponents learned to counter these “facts” with peer-reviewed scientific studies proving the industry charges of adverse economic consequences were not true. Third, while health professionals gained expertise in avoiding the time and expense of defending the ordinance at the polls, tobacco control advocates still had a chance to win if forced to the polls, in spite of the industry's money. In most cases, when tobacco control advocates and elected officials remained active and committed and raised adequate money, the industry's efforts failed. Effective campaigns took advantage of both the tobacco industry's lack of credibility and the voters' understanding of the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Proposition 99-funded education, through the media campaign, on the dangers of secondhand smoke, as well as the messages designed to discredit the tobacco industry, created an environment where it was easier to mobilize public and political support for policies to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke. The DHS also gave the Americans for


181
Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation a contract to provide technical assistance to the LLAs and other organizations involved in the Proposition 99 Health Education program. This assistance helped local tobacco control advocates better anticipate and fight the tobacco industry's tactics. The local programs reinforced these messages, and the local coalitions, the voluntary health agencies, and ANR leveraged this environment to increase the effectiveness with which they fought the tobacco industry in the political arena. Overall, the local ordinance effort was to prove remarkably successful. Between 1989 and January 1, 1995, when a statewide smoke-free workplace law went in to effect, 195 local clean indoor air ordinances were passed or strengthened in California. As the tobacco industry had feared, this new environment contributed to the marked decline in smoking in California.[56-58]

The tobacco industry recognized that its historical ability to control tobacco policy in California was no longer as effective because tobacco control advocates moved successfully to the local level and away from the Legislature. While they were willing to fight local ordinances as an interim measure, the industry was still counting on the California Legislature to rescue it, which it could do in two ways. First, the Legislature could increasingly “de-fund” the LLAs and the media campaign, both of which were supporting local efforts. Second, the Legislature could pass statewide legislation that would preempt the ability of local level governments, either city or county, to pass legislation.[59] With a single, weak state-level law, the local ordinance campaigns would disappear.


previous sub-section
The Battle over Local Tobacco Control Ordinances
next section