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Vermont Department of Health - Tobacco Control

Tobacco Cessation Community Coalition

# of local secondhand smoke strategies adopted

4SFY 2020

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Story Behind the Curve

Updated: September 2020
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 Control Plan has a goal of reducing exposure from 44% in 2016 to 35% among nonsmokers by 2020 (ATS 2016).


The Vermont Tobacco Program funds 14 community grantees and the Agency of Education funds 18 supervisory unions to host school-based youth groups for tobacco prevention activities including what is termed 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. 


In state Fiscal Year 2020, there were a total of four smoke-free town ordinances passed to reduce the impact of secondhand smoke on Vermont communities, statewide. The Town of Danville in partnership with the Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital (NVRH) passed an exciting policy early in 2020. Recognizing that the use of tobacco/marijuana/alcohol products at the town beach property is detrimental to the health and welfare of town residents, the town adopted a 100% Tobacco/Substance-Free Area Policy for Joe's Pond Town Beach. The policy prohibits all smoking/vaping, alcohol consumption and the use of all tobacco/marijuana products 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This effort is credited to prevention advocates at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital and supported by a grant from the Tobacco Control Program; see news coverage here.


In St. Albans, the Franklin Grand Isle Tobacco Prevention Coalition (FGI) helped to pass a smoke-free and vape-free ordinance for all municipal properties, effective September 1, 2020. This ordinance passed after years discussion and consideration to protect the St. Albans parks and recreation areas as well as the St. Albans community residents. 


In Windsor, the Mt. Ascutney Prevention Partnership (MAPP) worked with the Windsor Select Board to pass a smoke-free and vape-free town-owned parks and land ordinance, also to go into effect September 2020. MAPP leaders worked hard to demonstrate the need and desire for this ordinance through visual surveys of tobacco litter as well as a town survey with questions around support for smoke/vape free town-owned parks and land. 85% of responders supported this initiative and 93% supported smoke/vape-free town events.


The Collaborative, serving Bennington County, helped address second hand smoke exposure in the sidewalks adjacent to early education and high school campuses. In partnership with the Vermont Department of Health, the Alliance for Community Transformations, and Blueprint for Health, The Collaborative met with the supervisory union leadership to request their support for making adjacent sidewalks smoke free, which they agreed to! As of March 1, 2020, Bennington secured 14 smoek and vape free signs and key visual points designating six sidewalks smoke and vape free. 


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 and see results in quarters three and four of their grants, i.e. January through June of each year, 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.

  • 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.
What Works

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. 

Action Plan
  • 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. 
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.

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