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Journal of Environmental and Public Health
Volume 2012, Article ID 632629, 8 pages
Research Article

The Impact of State Preemption of Local Smoking Restrictions on Public Health Protections and Changes in Social Norms

1Biostatistics Inc., 228 East Wesley Road, NE, Atlanta, GA 30305, USA
2CDC Office on Smoking and Health, 4770 Buford Highway, NE, MS-K50, Atlanta, GA 30341-3717, USA
3ICF International, Denver, CO 80223, USA
4Department of Pharmaceutical Systems and Policy, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA

Received 1 December 2011; Accepted 28 February 2012

Academic Editor: Lorraine Greaves

Copyright © 2012 Paul D. Mowery et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Introduction. Preemption is a legislative or judicial arrangement in which a higher level of government precludes lower levels of government from exercising authority over a topic. In the area of smoke-free policy, preemption typically takes the form of a state law that prevents communities from adopting local smoking restrictions. Background. A broad consensus exists among tobacco control practitioners that preemption adversely impacts tobacco control efforts. This paper examines the effect of state provisions preempting local smoking restrictions in enclosed public places and workplaces. Methods. Multiple data sources were used to assess the impact of state preemptive laws on the proportion of indoor workers covered by smoke-free workplace policies and public support for smoke-free policies. We controlled for potential confounding variables. Results. State preemptive laws were associated with fewer local ordinances restricting smoking, a reduced level of worker protection from secondhand smoke, and reduced support for smoke-free policies among current smokers. Discussion. State preemptive laws have several effects that could impede progress in secondhand smoke protections and broader tobacco control efforts. Conclusion. Practitioners and advocates working on other public health issues should familiarize themselves with the benefits of local policy making and the potential impact of preemption.