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Science in regulatory policy making: case studies in the development of workplace smoking restrictions


OBJECTIVE To study the role of science related and other arguments in the development of workplace smoking regulations.

DESIGN Case study, content analysis

SUBJECTS Written commentaries and hearing transcripts on proposed indoor air regulations in Maryland and Washington.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES We coded each written commentary and hearing testimony for position toward the regulation, affiliation of the person submitting it, criteria used to evaluate science and scientific, ideological, economic, political, engineering and procedural arguments.

RESULTS In both states, opposition to the regulations came primarily from the tobacco industry, small businesses, and business organisations and appeared to be coordinated. There was little coordination of public health support for the regulations. Arguments about science were used more often by those opposed to the regulations than by those in favour. Supporters emphasised the quantity of the evidence, while opponents criticised its reliability, validity, and quality. Arguments not related to science (61% of total arguments; 459/751), were more common than scientific arguments (39% of total arguments; 292/751). Economic and ideological arguments were used to a similar extent by regulation supporters and opponents.

CONCLUSIONS Advocates can support health related regulations by submitting commentary emphasising the sound research base for regulation and countering criticisms of research. National coordination of these efforts could avoid duplication of effort and make more efficient use of limited public health resources.

  • workplace smoking regulations
  • science based arguments

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