This study investigated the barriers confronted by California’s local tobacco control projects in their effort to adopt and implement smoke-free policy in local recreational spaces, such as parks and beaches, as well as at venues for community events such as fairs and farmers’ markets. Overall, the barriers were grouped in three primary areas: organizational barriers, politically polarization, and local political orientation.
The findings align with the barriers associated with adopting policy more generally [16
], particularly in the organizational realm. Yet, the political polarization with regards to tobacco-related issues creates unique challenges related to health policy and specifically to tobacco control. These included the notion that smoke-free laws were “bad for business” and that laws or policies violated one’s individual rights.
Although we have chosen to focus on the barriers faced by local tobacco control organizations in adopting and implementing local smoke-free policies, it is important to note that in the time analyzed for this study (2004–2010), hundreds of local smoke-free policies have been enacted all over the state of California. Local tobacco control organizations have enjoyed great success in campaigning for, and securing adoption of smoke-free policies. Nonetheless, our intent in examining the barriers in adopting and implementing local policies was to better understand ways in which tobacco-control organizations may create successful plans of action in enacting local smoke-free policy by anticipating and adjusting to potential challenges and barriers. In one way, the barriers identified in this study underscore the need for an organized action plan in adopting local tobacco policy [5
]. Thus, in recognizing these barriers, we also have identified potential strategies to overcome or offset the barriers. These include: (1) having a “champion” who helps to carry an objective forward; (2) tapping into a pool of youth volunteers; (3) collecting and using local data as a persuasive tool; (4) educating the community in smoke-free policy efforts; (5) working strategically within the local political climate; and 6) demonstrating to policymakers the constituent support for proposed policy [13
]. In addition to these strategies, it is also evident that much of the success of local smoke-free policy derives from previous policy adoption and implementation [17
]. It is thus important to recognize past policy successes around the state and especially in surrounding local areas. This approach invariably leads to a domino effect in which local jurisdictions understand they are part of a larger movement.
The results of this study also demonstrate how a failed intervention, one where policy was not adopted in a particular funding cycle, often provided the local projects with insight useful to them in future policy-campaigns. Moreover, this insight—when disseminated through meetings, conferences and roundtables—often made it easier for neighboring jurisdictions and other local projects to begin their own effective campaigns.
The final evaluation reports revealed not only the barriers in enacting outdoor smoking policy, but also that community norms have changed, and continue to change, as they relate to smoking and secondhand smoke. In this manner, efforts to combat smoking and secure passage of smoke-free policy increase the denormalization process, both socially and environmentally. As people become accustomed to smoke-free areas, resistance to such policies decreases. Moreover, people who smoke also have become more aware of the effect of their usage of tobacco on others. Such attributes generate a larger awareness and mindfulness in our communities that we suspect will someday have a global effect.
Across the state of California, many local communities have adopted and implemented smoke-free policy. The future of anti-tobacco work rests with local communities in overcoming the challenges and barriers that arise, creating effective action plans and responses. As such, future studies should continue efforts to improve our understanding of the interactive factors affecting the adoption of policy.