Louisiana health advocates used local ordinances to win smokefree casinos and bars despite industry opposition

Tanner Wakefield and I just published Securing Smokefree Laws Covering Casinos and Bars in Louisiana via Messaging, Continuous Campaigning and Health Coalitions that describes innovative campaigns that Louisiana tobacco control advocates, in collaboration with national groups developed to successfully secure smokefree casinos in New Orleans and other cities there despite fierce industry opposition.

In particular, Louisiana illustrates how health organizations can shift to local campaigns to secure ordinances covering bars and casinos when state progress is blocked. Local governments are more responsive to constituents where the tobacco industry and other sectors have less influence on policymaking. After state smoking restrictions stagnated following 2006, Louisiana health organizations pursued local comprehensive ordinances covering casinos and bars, enabled by the 2006 repeal of preemption. Louisiana organizations sustained their partnerships after 2006, allowing deployment of an existing coalition network that facilitated cooperation to pass comprehensive local ordinances over business resistance. Starting in 2011, Louisiana’s Tobacco Free Living (TFL) campaign secured ordinances using policy campaigns supported by its “Let’s Be Totally Clear/Healthier Air for All” media initiative. Efforts to pass local smokefree ordinances in Louisiana serve as a model for passing comprehensive protections in states that currently lack statewide smokefree protections for bars and casinos because of political resistance at the state legislature, as long as they are not preempted by state law.

Louisiana health organizations secured 30 local smokefree laws covering casinos and bars, including in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, between 2011 and 2021. Louisiana’s experience indicates that effective established strategies for enacting smokefree laws (a sustained media campaign, local organizing, polling and countering industry claims) can be combined with an emphasis on worker protections and local culture to mount successful campaigns to enact smokefree laws.

Here is the abstract:

In this paper, we examine efforts by health organizations seeking comprehensive smokefree ordinances over Louisiana casinos and bars between 2010 and 2020 to determine best practices for increasing coverage. Bars and casinos remain less protected from secondhand smoke compared to other workplaces in the United States. Casino behavior is compared to the Policy Dystopia Model (PDM), a tobacco industry strategy framework. We performed a historical case study using snowball searches for news on the Access World News Database and the internet. We performed web searches using the names of key actors, organizations, and locations and interviewed nine participants. Starting in 2010, the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living ran ordinance campaigns supplemented by an ongoing statewide smokefree media initiative. Utilizing consistent strategies, including promoting performers as cultural emblems deserving protection, health organizations coalesced in New Orleans during 2014 and Baton Rouge in 2016 and 2017 to pursue ordinances. The coalitions secured ordinances in Louisiana’s population and tourism centers despite business resistance. Organizations obtained 30 smokefree laws across Louisiana by 2021. Casinos used PDM strategies to resist ordinances, indicating the framework may predict strategies by non-tobacco entities resisting tobacco control. Louisiana shows that ongoing local campaigns, social justice themes and cultural messaging with coalitions in cities can secure smokefree laws covering casinos and bars and that local ordinance campaigns are a viable method for advancing smokefree protections over those venues in states where the state legislatures are resistant to action.

The full citation is: Wakefield TD, Glantz SA. Securing Smokefree Laws Covering Casinos and Bars in Louisiana via Messaging, Continuous Campaigning and Health Coalitions. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022; 19(7):3936. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19073936. In is available for free here.

Published by Stanton Glantz

Stanton Glantz is a retired Professor of Medicine who served on the University of California San Francisco faculty for 45 years. He conducts research on tobacco and cannabis control and cardiovascular disease/

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