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Smoke-free Policy Implementation


Smoke-free laws and policies are a crucial element for comprehensive tobacco control.

They protect the public from second-hand smoke exposure, can motivate tobacco users to seek cessation assistance and improve air quality in enclosed settings. Smoke-free laws also garner support from the public, are good for businesses and often result in high compliance rates. However, once legislation is passed it must be properly implemented to achieve smoke-free compliance.  

Key facts

  • Exposure to second-hand smoke [SHS] causes cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses in non-smokers.
  • There is no safe level of exposure to SHS.
  • Comprehensive smoke-free laws motivate smokers to quit, reduce tobacco consumption and exposure of non-smokers to SHS.
  • Smoke-free laws are popular and compliance is often high.
  • Article 8 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [WHO FCTC] establishes 100 percent smoke-free work and public places as a best practice to protect people from SHS.
A large group stand in front of a bus with a no smoking sign on the door

Case study

Baguio City, The Philippines

In 2008, the City Government of Baguio passed their first comprehensive smoke-free law, which was strengthened in 2017. This Ordinance detailed the program’s coordination and enforcement structures, but initial implementation exposed several gaps.

In 2018, The Baguio City government was given a grant by The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease to create a Community Smoke-Free Task Force, focused on strong implementation and enforcement of smoke-free regulations in the city. The Community Task Force were empowered to lead local enforcement efforts in collaboration and coordination with the city.

Smoke-free Implementation

Successful implementation of smoke-free legislation will follow a different blueprint for each country and context it is applied to, and careful planning is necessary to achieve compliance. The WHO has identified six essential elements for the successful passing and implementation of smoke-free laws for cities.

1. Simple, clear enforceable and comprehensive legislation

2. Anticipation and countering opposition

3. Planning and adequate resources for implementation and enforcement

4. Civil society involvement

5. Outreach and Communications

6. Monitoring and evaluation of the implementation and compliance of the law

Keep reading find guidance and top tips on implementing smokefree laws.

1. Simple, clear enforceable and comprehensive legislation

Weak legislation can be a roadblock for successful implementation. Understanding legislation and advocating to amend weak laws to build a comprehensive policy is an important step prior to implementation. The scope of smoke free policies can also vary widely. They can focus on indoor, outdoor or ‘enclosed’ spaces, be for specific venues, building or transit types and specify different enforcement mechanisms, such as signage and ashtray requirements and assign authority for violations. Understanding the details of the legislation is essential to build an effective implementation plan.

Example: A Conceptual Framework for the Roles of Legislation and Education in reducing Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke - This article proposes a conceptual model for legislation that aims to regulate smoking in public places that incorporates factors affecting compliance and elaborates on the implications and potential applications. This framework can be used to assess smoke-free legislation and build an effective implementation plan that will result in high compliance.

2. Anticipation and countering opposition

The tobacco industry works tirelessly to halt tobacco control efforts and interfering with smoke-free policy is no exception. The industry has a common list of tactics you can anticipate when implementing smoke-free legislation, including the use of front groups, local business and organizations to oppose smoke-free legislation, attacks on the science driving these laws, engaging policy makers and arguing economic harm if smoke-free legislation is implemented and threatening legal action.

Example: British Columbia Capital Regional District 100% smoke-free by law: A successful public health campaign despite industry opposition - This article describes how the British Colombia Regional District successfully passed and implemented 100% smoke-free in public places legislation despite aggressive industry interference. It provides an example of successful activities to counter interference by anticipating and developing counter strategies during implementation planning.

3. Planning and adequate resources for implementation and enforcement

A goal of smoke-free policy is that it becomes self-enforcing. Once smoke-free policy is implemented, the public often sees the advantages to the law and demands compliance. Before that happens though, strong planning and adequate resources are necessary. Planning stage can involve assessing the current smoke-free situation, setting up an implementation team or task force comprised of stakeholders and members of civil society, creating an enforcement strategy and ensuring adequate resources are available for implementation.

Example: Implementing Smoke-free Policies in Low- and Middle- Income Countries - This review looks at grey and academic literature to analyze implementation of smoke-free policies. This example identifies barriers to implementation and details “lessons learned” for effective implementation, emphasizing the importance of importance of thoughtful planning and sufficient resources in LMICs.

4. Civil society involvement

Civil society plays a critical role in successful implementation. They are often the driving force behind building political will, educating the public, countering opposition to smoke-free policy and are a good source of community knowledge. Civil society has fewer restrictions than government and therefore can react quickly and independently.

Example: Community Perception of Smoke-free Policy in Depok City, Indonesia  - This qualitative study analyses the perception of smoke-free policy within a community and emphasizes the importance of civil society engagement, involvement and education to achieve compliance with smoke-free policy. This example provides a proposed communication and information mechanism in Depok City to enhance civil society involvement and overall compliance.

5. Outreach and Communications

In order to introduce and implement smoke-free legislation there must be an outreach and communications strategy that builds strong public support. Successful campaigns are ones that increase understanding of the law and the health benefits of smoke-free policy, raises awareness of requirements and penalties for non-compliance, builds the expectation that the law will be enforced and communicates ways for the public to enforce the law.

Example: Keeping Your Hospital Property Smoke-free: Successful Strategies for Effective Policy Enforcement and Maintenance, Section 3, Page 13 - This guide provides step-by-step guidance and sample materials to assist with implementing smoke-free policy specifically in a hospital setting. Page 13, section three of this guide specifically provides strategies and a case study example to support effective communication strategy for implementation.  

6. Monitoring and evaluation of the implementation and compliance of the law

Smoke-free legislation will still have those who oppose it, even once implemented. The best way to defend and uphold these laws are to demonstrate they are effective and have a positive impact. Building and monitoring and evaluation plan that supports these laws is essential and can provide the evidence needed to defend them from attacks. Disseminating the findings will defend the law and the citizens it was designed to protect.

Example: After the Smoke has Cleared: Evaluation of the Impact of a new Smoke-free Law, NZ - This report details the evaluation of the 2003 Smoke-free Environments Act in New Zealand to determine the overall compliance, evaluate anticipated and unanticipated outcomes and provide evidence for future legislation and dissemination. This example provides a detailed evaluation of smoke-free laws to assist with planning monitoring and evaluation efforts for smoke-free programs.

Other policy areas

You might also be interested in learning more about implementing TAPS or Tobacco Vendor Licensing policies.