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News Summary

State Preemption of Local Smoke-Free Laws in Government Work Sites, Private Work Sites, and Restaurants United States, 2005-2009

Publication Date: 2/5/2010
  • Author:Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Publication:MMWR 59(4), February 5, 2010

Smoke-free policies (i.e., policies that completely eliminate smoking in indoor workplaces and public places) result in health benefits, including preventing heart attacks (1--3). Preemptive legislation at the state level prohibits localities from enacting laws that vary from state law or are more stringent. A Healthy People 2010 objective (27-19) is to eliminate state laws that preempt stronger local tobacco control laws (4). A 2005 CDC review found that little progress was being made toward reducing the number of state laws preempting local smoking restrictions in three indoor settings: government work sites, private-sector work sites, and restaurants (5 ). These three settings were selected for analysis because they are settings that often are addressed by state and local smoking restrictions and because they are major settings where nonsmoking workers and patrons are exposed to secondhand smoke (1). This report updates the previous analysis and summarizes changes that occurred from December 31, 2004, to December 31, 2009, in state laws that preempt local smoke-free laws for the same three settings. During that period, the number of states preempting local smoking restrictions in at least one of these three settings decreased from 19 to 12. In contrast with the 2005 findings, this decrease indicates progress toward achieving the goal of eliminating state laws preempting local smoking restrictions. Further progress could result in additional reductions in secondhand smoke exposure.

For this analysis, preemption was defined as a statute or judicial opinion that prevents local jurisdictions from enacting smoking restrictions that would be more stringent than, or different from, state law. CDC monitors state laws that preempt local smoking restrictions ( Table) using the CDC State Tobacco Activities Tracking and Evaluation (STATE) system, an online electronic database that includes information on state tobacco-related legislation.* The system tracks state statutes and court rulings for preemption provisions affecting local smoking restrictions in government work sites, private work sites, and restaurants. Changes in states' smoke-free preemptive status that took effect after December 31, 2009, were excluded for this report.