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State and Local Tobacco Control Policy Research

Research that advances the ability of state agencies, legislative and regulatory bodies, and local communities throughout California to assess, understand, and implement science-based tobacco control polices.

The enactment of five state tobacco laws in June 2016 has changed the tobacco control landscape in California, opening the door for new local and state policy that protects public health. Here is a brief description of the new state laws that went into effect in California on June 9, 2016: 

  • SB 5 X2 defines e-cigarettes as tobacco products, and makes aerosolized devices that deliver nicotine and other substances subject to the Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement (STAKE) Act. This law includes products that aerosolize nicotine and other chemical constituents under the umbrella of state smoke-free laws, age restrictions and other rules governing tobacco products.
  • AB 7 X2 closes loopholes in state smoke free workplace laws for enclosed spaces, including hotel lobbies, small businesses, and break rooms.
  • SB 7 X2 raises the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21; however, military personnel between 18-20 will be able to purchase tobacco in California with a military ID
  • AB 9 X2 requires all public, private, and charter school campuses to be tobacco free.
  • AB 11 X2 establishes a sustainable tobacco licensing fee program under the state Board of Equalization.

Although these legislative actions are intended to reduce Californian’s exposure to tobacco and nicotine, the near-term and downstream consequences of enactment and coinciding responses of the tobacco industry to offset the public health impact are unknown and warrant investigation. For example, research is needed to examine the:

  • influence of raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21 on retailer compliance with STAKE Act requirements
  • influence of smoke free school campuses on enforcement, youth tobacco use and availability of tobacco prevention programs for school-aged children
  • effect of closing loopholes in smoke free workplace laws on local policymaking to extend worker protections to outdoor spaces (e.g., restaurant patios and business entrances)  

Shortly after the California Governor signed the five bills into law, the FDA Center for Tobacco Products on May 5, 2016, finalized a rule extending their regulatory authority to e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah, and pipe tobacco. The effective date of the regulations is August 10, 2016.

While the deeming rule provides a critical foundation for state and local regulation to protect public health, flavored nicotine products (e.g., strawberry flavored cigarillos and bubble gum flavored e-juice) are exempted from regulation. Part of the rationale underlying the exemption is that the federal government asserts that flavorings could assist adult smokers in the quitting process; however, there are no rigorous empirical findings suggesting that flavored tobacco products increase cessation efforts. Research is needed to evaluate likely resulting and intensified local and state efforts to restrict flavored tobacco products including menthol. Further, research is needed to monitor responses by the vape industry and tobacco companies stemming from the FDA’s deeming rule.

The FDA considered the continuum of risk in the recent rule making. Underlying the continuum of risk is the assumption that some tobacco products (e.g., e-cigarettes) are less harmful or safer than other products (e.g., combustible tobacco). Research is needed to guide scientific and regulatory conceptualization of the continuum of risk, as there are divergent views on the extent of reduced harm associated with tobacco products. 

The FDA does not have authority to determine where e-cigarettes are used in public and private spaces. Local and state policymakers’ may use the deeming rule to inform how e-cigarettes and other new products are regulated. Research is needed to examine how the FDA rulemaking facilitates and discourages local and state policy efforts to protect public health. 

TEROC’s Master Plan (2015-2017) highlights the fact that American Indian gaming casinos continue to be one of the major sources of SHS exposure for employees and patrons in California. TRDRP encourages researchers to work with tribal leadership to measure levels of exposure and increase awareness of the evidence and its effects. In pursuing this line of research, investigators are expected to respect the sovereignty of all American Indians’ lands, and seek cooperation at all levels when working in these venues, including patrons, employees, management, tribal members, and tribal leaders.

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Industry Influence

There are still major gaps in our understanding of how the tobacco industry influences local policy. The tobacco industry remains very active in lobbying the California legislature to block tobacco control bills.  At city and county levels, the tobacco industry's influence needs to be more fully understood. Research is also needed on the tobacco industry's contributions to non-profit organizations, including environmental groups, civil rights organizations, private and public schools, civic, cultural, advocacy organizations, and the hospitality industry. Previous research has established that price manipulation and predatory marketing campaigns of the tobacco industry target the most vulnerable populations, including, youth, communities of color, women, and LGBT communities.

Examples of relevant research topics include:

  • The tobacco industry's role in maintaining smoking in Indian gaming casinos
  • The impact of trade agreements on California’s tobacco policies and regulations

  • The tobacco industry’s role on product promotions targeting rural and low-income groups

  • The role of the tobacco industry in affecting local policies and ordinances

  • The tobacco industry's contributions to non-profit organizations and their effect on organizational policies and programs

  • The tobacco industry's influence in our public schools, civic, cultural, advocacy organizations, and the hospitality industry

  • Evaluation of community efforts to curtail the activities of the tobacco industry

  • The retail environment and industry marketing tactics

  • E-cigarette promotion and marketing and in particular, its effects on youth uptake

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