Now its time to launch your campaign -- put your
strategic plan into action, activate your large and diverse coalition, and introduce
your model ordinance with its solid sponsor.
At this phase, the tobacco industry and its allies will be watching your every move. Keep your eye on the tobacco industry. Big Tobacco will be organizing its allies in the hospitality and gaming industries at this stage, but its activities are typically hidden from the public.
What can you expect from the opposition?
Educate yourself about what to expect from the opposition. Learn how and why they use front groups and allies, specifically hospitality organizations, to promote economic misinformation. Prepare for the common strategies and tactics they use during smokefree campaigns. Study your talking points and learn how to respond to false claims from the opposition.
Expect the opposition to throw weak amendments and exemptions into the ring. Don't be fooled into accepting provisions that will weaken the ordinance. Review our list of common mistakes and ensure that the essential provisions remain in your ordinance language. If your ordinance becomes weak, you should actively oppose it. Remember, it is better to kill a weak law than to accept "half a loaf."
During this phase of the campaign, you are hard at work educating the community and mobilizing advocates to take action.
It is never to early to plan for implementation. This tip sheet includes an implementation checklist to help you prepare for and implement your new smokefree law. Also, check out www.goingsmokefree.org, a website dedicated exclusively to the implementation of new laws.
Media, paid and earned, are important components when you launch your campaign and from this point forward. Getting news coverage for your campaign may seem challenging, but it is not as complicated as you might think.
Choose a variety of spokespersons (e.g., community leaders, doctors, business owners) who are articulate under pressure, understand the issue, and know what arguments the opposition will raise. They should develop their key messages before speaking in depth to reporters, use plain and clear language, and deliver their comments in complete sentences so that the thoughts stand on their own. Staging press conferences, being interviewed by reporters, meeting with editorial boards, and writing letters to the editor are all part of working with the media. Effective media interaction will not only help you to frame the debate, but will also assist you in enlisting new allies.
If you haven't already done so, develop a relationship with your local newspaper, radio and television reporters likely to cover this issue. Get to know your media contacts proactively and build trust so that they rely on you as a credible source. Invite reporters to your public education events and provide them with accurate, factual data. Remember that reporters will usually be unfamiliar with the issues surrounding secondhand smoke and you will need to both educate them and subtly lead them to frame their stories as you want them to appear.
If you have funds available, consider placing educational ads.
The legislative process
The legislative process in one municipality may vary greatly from that in another; your sponsor or the legislative clerk can help you understand your municipality's procedures. You must become familiar with the entire process, including the format of public hearings, the powers of the Mayor or County Executive, and the possibility of a referendum on an enacted law, before you can adequately plan your strategy.
Poll your legislators early in the campaign. This can help you determine the degree of opposition you may face, the concerns that legislators may have, and the proper focus of your lobbying efforts. Coalition members should visit or phone each legislator. When visiting a legislator, bring some background information (e.g. articles, factsheets), but not so much as to be overwhelming. Select spokespersons who match their legislators' districts, constituency, and temperament. Most importantly, ensure that all spokespersons have a thorough understanding of the issues that may be raised.
At this point in the campaign, you are ready to turn on the grassroots pressure. The best means of showing that support is to generate many personal letters and phone calls to all the legislators and to the Mayor or County Executive. Provide sample writing and speaking points for your supporters. Then encourage advocates to write supportive letters to the city council to keep elected officials aware of the community support for smokefree air. When the time is right, advocates can also meet face to face with elected officials. Consult with ANR's technical assistance staff at 510-841-3032 for information on mobilizing citizens.
Before your sponsor sets a hearing date for the proposed law, coalition members should poll the other legislators one more time. If you don't have enough votes to pass the law, slow the process down and spend more time on grassroots efforts and educating individual legislators.
Once the proposed law has been drafted, a public hearing will be scheduled. There are usually two readings of any proposal at consecutive city council or health board meetings.
Preparing your testimony ahead of time is imperative. When the law comes up for a hearing, organize the speakers who will testify and pack the chambers with grassroots supporters. The speakers should be prepared to make concise, focused presentations. Make sure that your speakers do not duplicate each other but do cover all the issues involved, including health, legal, and economic matters. In addition to presenting testimony from experts on those issues, it is particularly effective to have testimony from victims harmed by secondhand smoke (e.g. asthmatics, people with heart conditions, hospitality workers, etc.). This gives a human face to what can otherwise be very technical, theoretical issues for elected officials.
Testimony from medical experts should focus on the evidence about the health effects of secondhand smoke, but it should be limited, because most elected officials already know that secondhand smoke is harmful to nonsmokers. The medical experts should also be prepared to refute the opposition's attacks on science of secondhand smoke, which are usually based on industry-funded studies that have no support in the general medical community.
The potential economic impact of the proposed law will be paramount in the legislators' minds and you need to present evidence that smokefree laws are not damaging to the business community, and that they often have a positive impact. The tobacco industry and its allies will, of course, claim just the opposite and you must be prepared to counter that claim. Ideally, business leaders and restaurant owners can be recruited to address these concerns, but if they can't, you must address them yourself. All credible scientific studies prove that smokefree laws have no negative impact on businesses, including restaurants.
Your opponents will try to frame the issue as one about individual rights and freedom of choice. Stay on message. Your speakers must be prepared to keep reframing the issue as one about public health and to remind the legislators that people should not have to be exposed to secondhand smoke (which has been labeled as a Group A carcinogen) to hold a job, eat in a restaurant, or go about their daily business in public places.
Be prepared for last minute dirty tricks from the opposition to weaken the ordinance with amendments and provisions. Remember your deal breakers - the goal is not to pass a law, but to protect public health.
Our goal is not to pass an ordinance. What? I thought we were running a campaign here. Sure, but let's not forget the overall goal is to change the social norms around smoking so that everyone is protected from secondhand smoke. If you end up with a weak ordinance full of loopholes, it does not equate victory. Remember, a weak ordinance that institutionalizes smoking (with ventilated smoking rooms, hours provisions, minors only loopholes, etc.) is never better than no ordinance at all.
During your campaign, there may come a time to decide whether the ordinance on the table meets your goal. Would it reduce the death and disease caused by secondhand smoke exposure? Would it keep the door open to making the law stronger in the future? Or would it simply put a band-aid on the problem, and prevent future action. Take a hard look at your ordinance language. Decide on deal breakers with your coalition. If certain provisions (eg, ventilation) would prevent you from strengthening the law down the line, it is time to pull your support for the ordinance. Regroup, and go back to educating the community. Even if you don't pass an ordinance the first time around, you have probably been successful in educating your community and building grassroots power! This will make it much easier when you go for a stronger law in round two.
Remember, you don't need to go it alone. We have reviewed thousands of ordinance drafts, and can provide tips and talking points to keep you language strong. Please Contact ANR for assistance and to review your ordinance language.
The opposition will continue their attempts to derail the ordinance until it passes, and beyond. Even after your ordinance passes, be diligent and prepared to counter tobacco industry attacks.