Vermont Department of Health - Tobacco Control
Tobacco Prevention and Control
# of local secondhand smoke strategies adopted
Story Behind the Curve
Updated: January 2023
Author: Tobacco Control Program, Vermont Department of Health
Reducing secondhand smoke exposure is one of the major objectives of the Vermont Department of Health's Tobacco Program. Nationally the rate of exposure to secondhand smoke has been decreasing; however, in Vermont adult exposure has not significantly changed from 2008 (56%) to 2016 (50%).
The Vermont Tobacco Program funds 12 community grantees and the Agency of Education funds 18 supervisory unions to host school-based youth groups for tobacco prevention activities, including what is recommended by the CDC as state and community interventions. Examples of interventions include protective policies including local secondhand smoke ordinances. These are official town or city policies that create smoke-free spaces – for example, town greens, town office campuses, and parks and recreational areas. Community grantees and their youth allies help to educate policymakers about the benefits of smoke-free policies, which include reducing secondhand smoke exposure and creating positive social norms that discourage youth initiation and promote cessation.
Whether a town adopts a smoke-free policy can depend upon several factors including:
- Community support for the policy
- Youth engagement in educating on the need for a policy
- Political will among local decision makers
- Presence of community champions who work for the policy over the long term
This performance measure fluctuates from fiscal year based on local leadership awareness, the frequency of town meetings, recent events such as the passing of protective policies in a nearby town, and the grant cycle. Community grantees receive grants on the state fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30. Often grantees work on new initiatives in the first one or two quarters (January through June) and see results in quarters three and four of their grants, with increased activity around Town Meeting Day in March. Also, it is common practice for grantees to work on educating for protective language over several years; this effort can remain in the grantee's workplan until final adoption and implementation.
Why Is This Important?
Smoke free, and now vape free, policies are impetrative to tobacco prevention and an important tobacco control intervention. Such policies not only protect the health and well-being of our population but also our environment. Secondhand smoke from burning tobacco products is a known risk factor for disease and premature death among non-smokers and there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke.
- Community Grantees: create yearly work plans with local secondhand smoke objectives, point-of-sale objectives to reduce youth access to tobacco and youth use, among other objectives.
- Youth Groups: OVX and VKAT members often support tobacco coalition initiatives through youth activism, educating school and community members, and becoming the face of tobacco prevention.
- Local decision makers e.g. select boards, boards of trustees, town officers: Local decision makers have the authority to change secondhand smoke policy, and may work with community coalitions to receive technical guidance.
- Local residents: Secondhand smoke policies can only change with a groundswell of support and demand from local residents. Community coalitions educate residents and decision makers to create demand for change. Residents that feel passionately about secondhand smoke exposure are also important champions for the issue.
Smoke-free laws are an evidence-based way to protect the public from secondhand smoke, create and maintain strong social norms, assist smokers to quit and maintain their quit status, and reduce smoking prevalence. The Vermont Department of Health turns the curve by providing ongoing support and technical assistance to community grantees and youth groups working with towns on smoke-free policies. This means providing model policies at the request of decision makers, distributing background information and research around the positive impact of secondhand smoke ordinances, and creating forums where community grantees and outside experts can share experiences and advice.
- The program will continue to provide support to community grantees around secondhand smoke ordinances and to promote youth engagement as a successful strategy to educate on the harms of secondhand smoke. Since 2009, 309 local secondhand smoke ordinances have passed in Vermont with support from community grantees. These ordinances include restricting smoking on business, hospitals and college campuses; around municipal buildings; at town swimming pools and in parks and playgrounds; along pedestrian shopping districts, at town beaches and fairgrounds, among others.
- The program has had strong yearly performance for this indicator and anticipates local communities will continue to see results with the support local champions, Office of Local Health staff and the Vermont Tobacco Control and Prevention Program provides.