Cover: The Implementation and Enforcement of Tobacco Control Laws

The Implementation and Enforcement of Tobacco Control Laws

Policy Implications for Activists and the Industry

Published in: Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, v. 24, no. 3, June 1999, p. 567-598

Posted on 1999

by Peter Jacobson, Jeffrey Wasserman

The authors examine the process by which antitobacco laws and ordinances were implemented and enforced in seven states and nineteen localities. Their findings indicate that state- and local-level clean indoor air laws were rarely enforced by governmental agencies. Instead, these laws were largely self-enforcing in that changed social norms regarding appropriate smoking behavior led to generally high compliance rates. In contrast, teen access laws were not self-enforcing, but were often enforced through periodic vendor compliance checks. The authors also found that antitobacco forces did not devote a significant amount of attention to implementation and enforcement issues. Their focus was primarily on enacting new legislation and fighting tobacco industry attempts to weaken existing laws. The results do not augur well for public health measures that require state-level enforcement and that are opposed by powerful and politically well-connected interests. For tobacco control laws to be effective, public health advocates need to consider the locus of enforcement responsibility and the sanctions available to the enforcement agency, such as license removal by local authorities. These results suggest that failure to specify such mechanisms in the legislation will lead to delays in implementing and enforcing the laws as well as to a number of compliance problems. Antitobacco coalitions will also need to become more actively involved in the implementation and enforcement process.

This report is part of the RAND external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.