June 27, 2013

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Get it right the first time: Clean indoor air laws are sticky

There has been a longstanding debate among advocates over whether it is better to accept a weak clean indoor air law to get your foot in the door with the idea of coming back later and strengthening it or whether it is better to hold out for a strong law from the beginning.

We just published a paper in American Journal of Public Health, "The Pattern of Indoor Smoking Restriction Law Transitions, 1970–2009: Laws Are Sticky," that examined the pattern of the passage of smoking laws across venues (government and private workplaces, restaurants, bars) and by strength (no law to 100% smoke-free) that were passed between 1970 and 2009 using data from the Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights Ordinance Database. 

We found that each decade, more laws were enacted, from 18 passed in the 1970s to 3172 in the first decade of this century, when 91% of existing state laws were passed. Most laws passed took states and localities from no law to some level of smoking restriction, and most new local (77%; 5148/6648) and state (73%; 115/158) laws passed in the study period did not change strength. 

Because these laws are "sticky"-once a law has passed, strength of the law and venues covered do not change often-policymakers and advocates should focus on passing strong laws the first time, rather than settling for less comprehensive laws with the hope of improving them in the future. 

The paper is available here.   (Sanders-Jackson et al, Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print June 13, 2013: e1-e8. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301449).

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