Tracking the impact of a new smoke-free law on public opinion, indoor air quality, compliance, employee health and business can ensure that the law is having its intended benefits and help celebrate the law's success in protecting and improving community health.
Carefully done research on your smoke-free law's impact can also support ongoing media advocacy on the law's health and economic benefits.
More and more communities are evaluating the impact their new smoke-free law has on health and business, as well as public support and compliance.
Such evaluations help ensure the law is having its intended benefits; support continued education about the law's health and economic benefits through media advocacy; and counter opponents' efforts to undermine public support for the law.
There is always a need for “fresh off the presses” evidence to assist those who are not yet protected by a strong, 100 percent smoke-free indoor air law.
View Economic Impact of Smoke-free Policies on Restaurants and Bars (Presentation), a presentation delivered Andrew Hyland, Roswell Park Cancer Institute for more information.
Consider what types of evaluation you want to conduct after your smoke-free law goes into effect. Air quality tests and public opinion surveys, in particular, have proved to be efficient uses of resources to demonstrate the benefits of and support for smoke-free laws. Identify your reasons for studying various aspects of the new law's impact (media advocacy, feedback to policy makers, etc.) and determine what, if any, money is available. Some key questions to consider include:
- Is there enough money available to hire an outside research/statistical consultant to conduct economic impact, public opinion, air quality or other studies? Review these online resources for more discussion evaluating air quality.
- Do you have access to other expertise for public opinion survey design and analysis?
- Identify contact person(s) within the health department (or other agencies) responsible for tracking the data needed to assess the impact of the new law on:
- Compliance (complaints, enforcement letters, etc.)
- Popularity of and support for the law
If you choose to conduct certain evaluation studies, some data needs to be collected before the new law goes into effect in order to make effective comparisons after it takes effect. These include:
- Baseline data on indoor air quality to demonstrate improvements following the new law's effective date. Borrow, rent or buy equipment and software to test air quality before implementation day to provide baseline data for future air quality studies. Visit TobaccoFreeAir.com and these online resources for more information.
- Baseline data on hospitality workers' health, which can be obtained using self-collected, mailed-in saliva cotinine specimens plus a telephone survey assessing secondhand smoke exposure and related symptoms.
- Data on cotinine in urine combined with personal interviews, which is another way to measure impact on workers' health.
- Does the community have access to an Institutional Review Board (IRB)? An IRB is a group made up of researchers and others that reviews a research plan to ensure that it protects study participants. If you plan to conduct random sample surveys, or employee health studies that require urine/saliva samples, begin the process of obtaining IRB approval.
Once the new laws have been implemenented, see how people feel about their communities going smoke free. Hire a reputable company that regularly handles public opinion surveys to make sure you're receiving objective and scientifically credible results.
- Download a sample public opinion survey script your pollsters can customize and use. (updated 10/15/2007)
- If you're conducting your own public opinion survey, check out this sample press release to publicize the popularity of your new smoke-free law.