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Edited by Barbara McLintock. Published by Granville Island Publishing (www.granville-islandpublishing.com), 2004, pp 216. ISBN 1-894694-31-7.
Banning smoking in public places
This book is simultaneously depressing and reassuring for people involved in the battle to remove environmental tobacco smoke from public places. The tactics used to oppose a bylaw requiring all public places, including bars, to be smoke-free in Greater Victoria in Canada in the late 1990s are depressingly familiar to those currently fighting for smoke-free bars in Australia. On the other hand, it is reassuring that the opposition does not seem to have developed any new strategies, their moves becoming increasingly predictable.
For that reason, this is an excellent tool for people trying to bring about tobacco control through legislation and public policy and will provide a good insight for people working in other areas of public health. While the players in this story are very specific to Greater Victoria, Canada, the logistics of the campaign strategy are almost universally applicable. The tactics used to oppose tobacco control are global and the lessons learned from this campaign are worth sharing with the international tobacco control community.
Smoke-free has been written by a journalist, Barbara McLintock, so it is a comfortable, easy to read story. Those who want more academic details of the campaign, with statistics, evaluation, and analysis, can find that in journal articles published elsewhere. The value of this book is the insight into the power struggles and spheres of influence which are the hidden drivers of legislative change.
It also puts a human face on the battle and reinforces the need to support staff given the unenviable job of enforcing tobacco control policies among people who do not want them. I have to admit that I found the description of the aggressive hostility against the Capital Health Region staff, orchestrated by some of the bar owners, confronting and wondered what provision has been made in Australia to deal with the possibility of such tactics.
But it is those details which make the book a very powerful blueprint for what is needed to bring about effective policy change. The growing acceptance of anti-smoking strategies by the general community has not removed all the heat from the issue and the battle does not end with the passing of legislation. The need for strong leadership and a commitment to resources to enforce the legislation once it is in place may well continue for a number of years.