Texas Case Study
Local Comprehensive Clean Indoor Air Ordinance in Texas
Was a needs assessment completed?
Planning Models Used
The coalition relied on models developed and published by Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights (ANR) Clearing the Air: Citizen Action Guide and CDC's Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control to develop a clean indoor air campaign. In 2000, members of the coalition attended the CDC's Summer Institute course on Clean Indoor Air.
It should be noted that the coalition's original plan was to conduct a 2-year campaign—beginning with a comprehensive community education campaign, followed by a grassroots mobilization and media advocacy campaign once the ordinance was introduced. In September 2000, the El Paso City/County Health and Environmental District announced that it intended to consider an ordinance in October effectively scrapped.
The coalition quickly established a smaller ordinance task force, a core team to direct the day-to-day operations of the campaign (about 10 – 15 members). The task force began with a two month crash course to educate itself, dividing into research subcommittees that regularly reported back to one another. Task force members gathered information on the key issues they expected to be raised during the campaign (e.g., health effects, economic impact, experience in other cities, countering opposition tactics, etc.), assembling a binder of materials that was eventually provided to all city council members. The task force also researched local government issues (e.g., history of current ordinance, city charter, roles of city staff including the city manager, attorney, and clerk, members' voting records, etc.).
The coalition sought information and technical assistance from ANR, the CDC, the Texas State Department of Health, the Tobacco-Free Las Cruces (NM) Coalition, the voluntary health agencies, as well as other local coalitions across the country with experience passing local smoke-free ordinances. In March of 2001, ordinance task force members attended an ANR "Back to Basics" ordinance training, and in April of 2001, Lawrence Banegas of the New Mexico Department of Health conducted training on "Mobilizing the Community."
The task force developed a strategic plan to guide their campaign, drawing from their research and training. Because of the short time frame, community education and mobilization activities were almost simultaneous.
During the early phases of the campaign, coalition members discussed what provisions to include in the ordinance. The coalition decided after discussion and debate to draft a comprehensive ordinance creating full protection from secondhand smoke in ALL workplaces, which meant including free-standing bars. Although including free-standing bars was a radical idea for its time, the coalition considered it vital to promote a comprehensive workplace ordinance for two reasons. First, El Paso is a relatively poor community, with a large number of blue collar and hospitality workplaces – the types of workplaces least likely to voluntarily protect workers from secondhand smoke. Second, a large percentage of El Paso's restaurant and bar workers are recent immigrants from Mexico; they are unlikely to know about the dangers of secondhand smoke, much less ask for protection.
The coalition countered criticism of the free-standing bar provisions by staying on message that secondhand smoke is a health hazard that affects all workers, and all workers deserve protection. The coalition also pointed out that a comprehensive ordinance creates a level playing field; exempting some workplaces but not others might offer an unfair competitive advantage to the free-standing bars over restaurants and bars attached to restaurants.
Publicly, the coalition never wavered from this position. Privately, the coalition understood that local elected officials might seek political compromises, and reached agreement about their bottom-line requirements (i.e., at what point they would withdraw support for the ordinance, preferring nothing to pass rather than a seriously compromised ordinance riddled with exemptions). The ordinance's sponsor held fast to the coalition's vision of a comprehensive workplace ordinance to protect all workers—his motto of "no compromise" ultimately prevailed.
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