Racial Equity in Tobacco Control Enforcement

Official statement for equitable enforcement in tobacco control

Equitable Enforcement in Tobacco Control

In recent months, organizations across the country have committed to formalizing efforts to eliminate the injustices that have overwhelmed African American and Latino communities. Social justice and public health advocates for smoke-free living have joined these efforts revising best practices for enforcing commercial tobacco regulations. The Tobacco Control Enforcement for Racial Equity statement outlines five specific values for decriminalizing the purchase, possession, sale and distribution of commercial tobacco products. The statement calls for tobacco retailer accountability and culturally appropriate cessation and counseling services. It also insists that penalties for violating commercial tobacco control laws should address health, equity and social justice considerations.

Statement’s core values:

  1. Commercial tobacco control laws and policies are first and foremost public health measures.
  2. State and local governments should reform or eliminate enforcement practices that target individuals, especially youth, rather than businesses and industry actors.
  3. Enforcement practices and penalties for violations of commercial tobacco control laws should be proportional to the alleged violation and address health, equity, and social justice considerations.
  4. State and local governments should adopt legal and policy frameworks that facilitate the effective, equitable enforcement of commercial tobacco control laws by holding businesses and other industry actors accountable for violations.

The Tobacco Control Enforcement for Racial Equity statement also identifies the critical need to end the sale of flavored little cigars and mentholated tobacco products. According to the statement, this important policy change is a key measure for reducing harm and moving toward health equity.

The Tobacco Control Enforcement for Racial Equity statement encourages a cultural shift in the way tobacco control regulations are enforced and sets a unique precedent for other public health entities. The American Lung Association and more than 35 leading health and social justice organizations have endorsed the statement.

Download the full statement

To sign on to this letter in solidarity, contact us at info@centerforblackhealth.org.

Additional Resources for Understanding Equitable Enforcement:

Policy Examples:

WEBINAR: Equitable enforcement in commercial tobacco control

Counter Tools has partnered with The Center for Black Health & Equity and ChangeLab Solutions to discuss how local and state partners can advance equitable enforcement practices in commercial tobacco control.

This event reviews how to apply equitable enforcement strategies to your work. Register here for the webinar. Advance registration is required.

Not all populations are equally protected by laws, policies, and resources intended to reduce tobacco use and tobacco-related harm. Due to tobacco companies’ pernicious targeting, many underserved communities—communities of color, low-income communities, and LGBTQ+ communities, among others—are exposed to more point-of-sale advertising, live in places with a greater concentration of retailers that sell tobacco products, and report a higher prevalence of tobacco use. Just as these disparities in tobacco advertising, access, and use persist, so do disparities in the enforcement of commercial tobacco control laws and policies.

This webinar will:

  • Contextualize the role of commercial tobacco control in efforts to advance health and racial equity
  • Explain the concept of equitable enforcement, why it matters, and how public health practitioners can support equitable enforcement practices
  • Introduce a joint statement from a consortium of public health organizations that sets forth values and recommendations for the equitable enforcement of commercial tobacco control laws and policies
  • Provide a real-world case study on applying equitable enforcement practices
  • Offer additional guidance and resources on elevating health equity and racial justice in implementation and enforcement of commercial tobacco control laws and policies

This event has passed.