Project Coordinator, Ozarks Public Health Institute at Missouri State University
Smokefree advocates in Springfield faced tough opposition, but succeeded in passing a comprehensive smokefree law through determination and perseverance. The law was passed in April 2011, and went into effect two months later. Their focus on saving lives by providing clean indoor air for workers helped the community embrace the smokefree effort. Delores Joyce shares more about Springfield’s success.
What would you tell other communities that are considering going smokefree?
I think you need to have a strong plan and stick with it. It’s about the health of the people in our community. A lot of businesses have welcomed this and people have welcomed this. People are enjoying it and have gotten used to it. They just understand ‘I can’t smoke in here.’ Years ago, you could smoke in an airplane or hospital and now we wouldn’t even dream of doing that! It’s a shift of people’s thinking and their perception of normal. Sometimes those things take time, but when they outlawed smoking in airlines people were just outraged, but now people wouldn’t even think of smoking on an airplane. It is all about shifting that norm, staying on message, remembering why you’re doing this, having a plan and sticking with it.
What did you do to turn out the voters?
We knew just from polling that had been done that there was a lot of strong support for smokefree air. We had a lot of feet on the ground prior to the elections, getting signs out, doing a lot of door knocks. Really trying to help people understand the issue, why it was important and get[ting] them to the polls to vote.
What are the differences in Springfield today as opposed to before the smokefree law was passed?
For the most part, restaurants are welcoming this. We knew going into this that there was a segment of our business community that really wanted to see this happen. Now that it is passed, they are thrilled with it. Business is going well for these places, and those struggling were struggling before the law was even passed. There is so much focus on restaurants and bars, but I think the thing we forget are the people who were exposed in their workplace that weren’t bars and restaurants. Law offices are an example. There was nothing saying that they couldn’t smoke in their own office. Businesses like that, retailers in town, smoked in their own business. Now that this law has passed, that is history and people have a healthier workplace. I used to get calls from people who were at their wits end because their boss smoked, they didn’t, what could they do? Now for all of those people, they don’t have to work in that environment anymore to make a living. I think that is the most important.