What to Expect During Implementation

Each smoke-free law and each community is different, and state laws raise different issues than local ordinances do. Most smoke-free ordinances at the local level take effect 30 to 60 days after enactment. Statewide Smoke-free Indoor Air laws may allow more time to prepare for implementation and even allocate funds for this purpose.

In some communities, the enforcement agency (usually the state or local health department) is willing and able to take the lead in educating employers and the public about the new law. In other communities, voluntary health agencies or a smoke-free coalition may need to take a more active role in encouraging and supporting the enforcement agency. In some cases, outside funding may be available to support education, advertising and/or public relations. (For example, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has supported several state and local implementation education campaigns.)

One of the best ways to learn what to expect in the implementation process is to contact one of the many states or cities that have already successfully implemented a law like yours or a national organization like Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights or the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids for help.

What does it cost to implement a smoke-free law?

Historically, most local smoking ordinances have been “self-enforcing” and were successfully implemented with little or no additional resources. However, as comprehensive smoke-free laws have become the norm, and as many states have joined cities and counties in adopting such laws, dedicated funding can support effective education and enforcement and enable the enforcement agency to hire outside firms or consultants. In particular, recent implementation campaigns have benefited greatly from the ability to hire outside public relations firms or advertising agencies to help manage media efforts.

An informal survey of eight states in 2007 found that the average cost of a statewide education campaign was approximately $300,000, depending on the size of the state and the availability of funds (Email communication with Stephen Babb, Office of Smoking and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 7, 2007). Education campaigns typically included television, radio, fact sheets, signage, websites, billboards and print ads. The states also developed business kits and made use of local programs to educate business groups. The typical campaign ran both before and after the effective date of the law, averaging four months in duration.

Funding to conduct proactive compliance checks was more limited because enforcement was conducted by an agency other than the health department, or because the funding was included in a bundle to local health departments. A few states engaged in active enforcement. For example, they identified violations when conducting other health inspections or funded law enforcement to conduct active compliance checks

For example, Hawaii provided funding to local law enforcement to conduct active compliance checks. Twenty per month for a cost of approximately $50,000). However, most states relied on a “reactive” protocol - complaints were managed by a hotline/call center with a toll-free phone line.

Most states surveyed devoted approximately one full-time position to answering the complaint line. The volume of calls to the hotlines decreased rapidly as the public and businesses became accustomed to the new smoke-free law. State health departments also expressed the belief that investing more resources in an education campaign earlier on reduced the volume of complaints and prevented greater enforcement problems down the road.

What if there is an attempt to repeal or weaken a smoke-free law before it goes into effect?

It is not unusual for the tobacco industry and other opponents to attempt to undermine a state or local smoke-free law following passage. The industry or its allies may manufacture a sense of controversy, generate negative media attention, or claim economic losses among restaurants and bars. Past industry tactics have included delaying the effective date, initiating litigation, promoting ballot measures, and challenging supportive lawmakers.

Shortly after a smoke-free law takes effect, supporters should be prepared to hear unsupported claims of economic loss, especially from restaurants or bars. Because it takes well more than a year to assess the actual economic impact of a specific smoke-free law, the tobacco industry may try to create a false sense of urgency. Media attention generated by the industry may also focus on isolated incidents of noncompliance. Negative media attention is often generated by public relations firms or consultants associated with the tobacco industry.

For more information on opposition tactics, check out ANR's What to Expect from the Tobacco Industry.


The tobacco industry or its allies occasionally resort to filing lawsuits to overturn smoke-free laws. Although legal challenges are rarely successful, the industry may file suit and seek an injunction or temporary restraining order (TRO) simply to delay implementation. Common challenges in the past have relied on four theories: equal protection, due process, lack of regulatory authority, and preemption.

Download ANR's Legal Challenges to Smokefree Indoor Air Ordinances or view our related links to learn more about this topic.

Ballot Challenges

If permitted under state or local law, the tobacco industry may seek to overturn smoke-free laws via state or local referenda. Opponents have also occasionally tried to unseat elected officials who support smoke-free laws. Like litigation, such challenges rarely succeed, but they can delay or discourage new smoke-free efforts. In both cases, it is important for smoke-free supporters to assess the depth of grassroots support for the law to make sure that it is strong enough to both pass and defend a proposed smoke-free law.


As always, the industry's favorite strategy is state preemption of local smoke-free laws. Even after a law is passed, the industry and its allies may seek to limit local authority by including preemptive language in state legislation.

See ProtectLocalControl.org for more information about preemption.

Defending your smoke-free law

The following steps can help protect your smoke-free law from outside interference:


Learn what to do and when: Check out our recommended timeline