Voters back a variety of tobacco-control initiatives
Anti-tobacco forces looked to the Nov. 5 election as a chance to light up anti-cigarette sentiment by asking voters to back a variety of tobacco-control measures on ballot initiatives across the country. And, as with most elections, "there was good news a
Some of the wins were big. Tobacco-control advocates point to the success of a Florida constitutional amendment on smoke-free workplaces as providing a model for other states in the future. In addition, measures supporting tobacco tax increases and dedicating tobacco-settlement dollars to anti-smoking activities were approved in Arizona, Montana and, earlier this fall, in Oregon.
Tobacco control "is an issue that resonates and, with effective organization, it's an issue that can win on the ballot. People care about it. They care about whether their kids smoke," said Richard Daynard, PhD, professor of law and president of the Tobacco Control Resource Center at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston.
"These results demonstrate that Americans' concerns about tobacco are now carrying over into the voting booth," agreed Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in a statement.
In Florida, 71% of voters supported a ban on smoking in most enclosed indoor workplaces, including restaurants and in-home child care. Stand-alone bars, retail tobacco shops, smoking rooms in hotels and motels, and private homes not used for commercial health or child care are exempt from the measure.
The outcome was "indicative of the continued march toward protecting Americans from health hazards imposed by indoor smoke," said Dr. Houston.
And passage of this constitutional amendment, which had the backing of the Florida Medical Assn., marks the first time that American voters approved a smoke-free workplace measure in a statewide referendum. It will officially become part of the Florida Constitution on Jan. 7, 2003. The state Legislature must then enact implementing legislation to enforce compliance effective no later than July 1, 2003.
"Florida was obviously a tremendous victory," said Dr. Daynard. It was particularly important, he added, because the existing state law was "a bad state law" that preempted local jurisdictions from imposing more stringent indoor smoking regulations. "This does really make a difference."
It also creates momentum. In the immediate future, said Dr. Houston, there will be more issues that stem from this vote -- from the positive outcome in Florida.
Victorious in the West
Here are specifics on other ballot questions:
Arizona: Sixty-six percent of voters approved a proposal to increase the state's cigarette tax by 60 cents. The per-pack tax is now $1.18 -- making it one of the highest in the country. Some of the resulting revenue will be used to restore funding for the state's tobacco-prevention program. This funding was cut in half last year. The remaining new revenue will be used for other health care programs.
Montana: Voters earmarked 32% of the state's tobacco-settlement dollars -- about $9.6 million a year -- for tobacco prevention. This step will reverse deep cuts made in the program's funding levels.
Oregon: In September, voters approved a 60-cent per-pack cigarette tax with a portion of the funds dedicated to tobacco prevention.
"Cigarette taxes are the most effective way to curb tobacco consumption," said John L. Kirkwood, president and CEO of the American Lung Assn. "Studies have shown that for every 10% increase in tax, there is a 7% reduction in youth smoking and a 4% reduction overall. States that adequately fund their tobacco-prevention programs see a marked decline in smoking and smoking-related health problems."
Tobacco-control advocates, however, also suffered some losses.
Michigan voters nixed a constitutional amendment to reallocate the state's tobacco-settlement money to tobacco prevention and other health care programs.
In Missouri, voters narrowly defeated a plan to increase the state cigarette tax by 55 cents per pack.