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:
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.
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.
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.