Tobacco Industry Response to Local Ordinances:
Preemption can be defined as state or federal law that restricts the authority of lower jurisdictions to enact or enforce their own legislation regulating a specified topic.121
Preemption of local ordinances is the tobacco industry’s top legislative priority in the 1990s.122 123
As of September 1997, 17 states have laws that preempt, to varying degrees, provisions of local clean indoor air ordinances.124
Researchers, summarizing the effect of North Carolina’s preemption of local clean indoor air ordinances, conclude, “The impact of preemption on public health goes beyond its impact on the number and protectiveness of local regulations. Local smoking regulations generate public debate and community organization around the issue of ETS. Through this process, the public is educated and the social norms regarding tobacco use may change. By preventing new regulations from being adopted, preemption blocks an effective means of educating the public.”125
“We could never win at the local level ... So the Tobacco Institute and tobacco companies’ first priority has always been to preempt the field, preferably to put it all on the federal level, but if they can’t do that, at least on the state level.” — Victor L. Crawford, Former Tobacco Institute Lobbyist126
“It’s barely controlled chaos [at the local level]. We can’t be everywhere at once.” — Walker Merryman, The Tobacco Institute127
“You can’t sue every place every time... or even send people to challenge every proposal every place anymore.” — Thomas Lauria, The Tobacco Institute128
“When you have 95,000 local units of government in this country, and you have a finite amount of resources, then the smart thing to do is to try to limit the potential for mischief [i.e. seek preemption].” —Walker Merryman, The Tobacco Institute129
121 Actions Speak Louder Than Words: The Tobacco Industry’s Stealth Strategy in State Legislatures. Report prepared by the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids, May 28, 1996.
122 Jordan, J., Pertschuk, M., & Carol, J. Preemption in Tobacco Control: History, Current Issues, and Future Concerns. Berkeley, CA: Western Consortium for Public Health, 1994.
123 Siegel, M., Carol, J., Jordon, J., Hobart, R., Schoenmarklin, S., DuMelle, F., & Fisher, P. Preemption in tobacco control: Review of an emerging public health problem. Journal of the American Medical Association, 278:858-863, 1997.
124 State Legislated Actions on Tobacco Issues. American Lung Association (ALA), 1999.
125 Conlisk, E., Siegel, M., Lengerich, E., MacKenzie, W., Malek, S., & Eriksen, M. The status of local smoking regulations in North Carolina following a state preemption bill. Journal of the American Medical Association, 273:805-807, 1995.
126 Skolnick, A. Cancer converts tobacco lobbyist: Victor L. Crawford goes on record. Journal of the American Medical Association 274:199-202, 1995.
127 Flinn, J., "No-smoking laws have tobacco industry fuming: 'California is scaring the pants off Philip Morris'," San Francisco Examiner, May 12, 1991.
128 Pertman, A., "Why U.S. future is virtually smoke-free," San Jose Mercury News, May 8, 1994.
129 Lawrence, J., "Tobacco industry winning many battles," Los Angeles Times, March 25, 1990.