How to Support Smoke-Free Policies

This week, the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City will travel to Kansas City for the 2012 National Conference on Tobacco or Health. Besides learning from and connecting with colleagues in public health from around the country, we will be presenting during the poster session, “New York City Smoke-Free Parks and Beaches: Coalition Building and Advocacy Lessons.”

So, what did we learn from our experience? Effective advocacy includes: conducting research and data, creating compelling educational materials, building support among a diverse range of groups and organizations, educating key stakeholders, and generating earned media. We’ll be presenting these best practices as well as common obstacles and challenges.

Building Support for Smoke-Free Parks and Beaches

First, the Coalition helped to promote the findings of a public opinion survey that showed significant support for making parks and beaches smoke-free. The Coalition also used data and research from the NYC Department of Health showing that New Yorkers had higher levels of cotinene, a direct by-product of exposure to secondhand smoke.

An informative fact sheet and compelling sign-on letter were critical as we engaged with community organizations and non-profits to build a groundswell of diverse support across the five boroughs. The Coalition was also fortunate to be able to capitalize on a well-designed statewide media campaign around the issue.

A beach press event at Coney Island helped us gain media attention, build citywide awareness and support for  the initiative.  Dozens of earned media hits included Op-Eds and Letters-to-the-Editor, including an LTE by from the Coalition that was published in The New York Times.

With strong support from individual communities and citywide organizations, the Coalition educated elected officials on the health risks of secondhand smoke exposure, even in the outdoors.  The fact that 57% of New Yorkers who don’t smoke have cotinine in their blood, an indicator of secondhand smoke exposure, resonated with key decision makers.

The City Council passed smoke-free parks and beaches, also known as Intro 332.

Mayor Bloomberg signed the bill into law on February 22, 2011.  But our work didn’t stop there!  The Coalition partnered with the Department of Parks to distribute informative z-cards to promote the new policy and provide cessation resources.

Those are just some of the highlights of our long and hard-fought push to make more public spaces of New York City smoke-free.  We believe every New Yorker has the right to breathe clean, smoke-free air where they live, work and play.

We’re  excited to be able to share more about our experience helping NYC parks and beaches go smoke-free at the conference in Kansas City this week—particularly for our colleagues from cities and states that don’t yet have a similar policy in place.  Hope to see you at poster session on Wednesday!

If you’re interested in learning more and not traveling to Kansas City this week, please contact us.  We’ll be tweeting (@NYCSmokeFree) from the conference using #NCTOH in our tweets.  We would be happy to share resources and discuss how parks and beaches in your city can be smoke-free as well!