I just came across a recent report by the World Health Organization that reached some interesting conclusions about smoking laws. They compared experiences from all over the world and made an opening statement to mayors which includes the following comment:
- Compliance with the [non smoking] laws is high: the United Kingdom achieved 98% compliance within a year of the law’s implementation; Ireland achieved 94% compliance within a year. In both countries, opponents had argued that the public would never comply with the law.
- The laws are popular, and become more so after they are implemented. After smoke-free legislation was implemented, public support for it increased from 64% to 74% in New York State, from 67% to 82% in Ireland, and from 61% to 82% in New Zealand.
- Smoke-free laws are good for business. Not a single scientifically objective study has found a negative economic impact of smoke-free legislation. Objective, peer-reviewed studies have consistently found that smoke-free laws have a neutral or positive impact on businesses, including those in the hospitality or catering sector.
"A smoke-free city will not "just happen." You will need to properly prepare for it through information campaigns and planning with the public, decision-makers and stakeholders. You will need a strong law that is enforceable and an enforcement plan. But you will have clear guidance based on the experience of existing smoke-free cities.
Will it be without financial costs? No. You will need to invest resources in staff time, communications and enforcement, but they will not be significant. The costs will diminish rapidly after the law is implemented. And they will be minimal compared to most public health investments, and compared to the health and economic benefits that will be achieved.
Will it be without challenges? No. The tobacco industry and its allies will oppose smoke-free legislation. It will provide resources to other organizations to thwart your efforts. It may even take your city to court. But it will very likely lose in court against a well-designed, well-implemented law that is based on protecting public health. The court challenges are meant to delay implementation and to weaken laws that protect public health. They are meant to intimidate, and often do.
Your political leadership will be the buttress against these challenges. Without your leadership, it will be very difficult to achieve a smoke-free city. With it, your city’s success in implementing smoke-free legislation is virtually guaranteed.
There is really no good reason NOT to support smoke-free.
This is well worth a read and offers solid support for the brave steps taken by our City Council.