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Smokefree advocates fight pre-emption laws that limit regulations on tobacco use in Tennessee

Publication Date: 12/15/2014
  • Author:Tony Casey
  • Publication:Johnson City Press

1994 was a good year for advocates of a smoke-free Tennessee with the passage of the Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco Act, but what that accomplished might have not gone far enough and also limited the ability to enact further regulation of tobacco use and secondhand smoke.

There are pre-emption laws on the books that basically state that local municipalities -- on the city and county level -- can't go further than pre-existing state laws.

East Tennessee State University Assistant Professor of Public Health Hadii M. Mamudu said he believes pre-emption is holding back small sections of the state that would like to prevent the negative effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke on its residents. He said there is no debate whatsoever about those effects.

Mamudu said in his article "Tennessee's Smokefree Policy: It's Time for Local Control," for the Tennessee Medical Association, that the tobacco industry and its lobbyists are extremely strong and have done well to dig in their heels in fighting against smoke-free advocates.

"The tobacco industry is strong, but they can't fight in all 95 counties," Mamudu said, saying they've been known to promote "junk science" for their own benefit.

There might be some holdouts in certain parts of the state, but Mamudu said he believes Gov. Bill Haslam -- especially with the Health and Wellness Initiatives announced in March 2013 -- is in a position to overturn pre-emption laws. With enough pressure from across the state, Mamudu said Haslam takes the health of Tennesseans seriously....