Now that 75 California cities and counties have passed laws addressing the rights of nonsmokers, the grass-roots organization whose lobbying efforts led to most of those local ordinances has announced a decision to "go national."
"Actually we already did go national," said Stanton Glantz, president of Californians for Nonsmokers' Rights--now Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights--because over the last year, the Berkeley-based group has been getting as many calls from nonsmoking activists outside of California as within the state.
"The issue has arrived. We've gone from being 'those weird people' to technical experts," added Glantz, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
The new organization, which directly assisted in obtaining passage of 95% of the state's 75 laws on smoking, will address the "gaps" remaining in California as well as the rest of the country, he said.
Currently, 39 states and an estimated 400 municipalities have some form of smoking legislation. A bill to restrict smoking in federal buildings was introduced by U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) last year and is on the Senate calendar.
Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights (ANR), nonsmoking activists around the country say, is principally known for lobbying expertise, an area not generally addressed by existing national anti-smoking organizations such as the American Cancer Society or Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).
As a strictly California group, it has been one of an estimated 60 to 70 local organizations around the country working for nonsmokers' rights. With 15,000 members and contributors, however, it is believed the largest and, now, the only one turned national.
The group is planning to publish a strategy manual this spring, Glantz said, and is considering holding workshops to help raise funds for its national effort.
The California group's success, many believe, stemmed primarily from two tactics: focusing on local rather than statewide legislative efforts to try to weaken pro-tobacco forces, and zeroing in on "secondary smoke," an issue that turned out to have more public appeal than traditional health warnings to smokers.
"We're not, strictly speaking, an anti-smoking group," Peter Hanauer, a founder of the group, said. "Our objective was to protect nonsmokers from the effects of tobacco smoke."
"We advised against statewide initiatives," Glantz said, noting that Californians for Nonsmokers' Rights was formed in 1981 after two unsuccessful statewide campaigns, in which the nonsmoker groups were outspent about six to one by pro-tobacco forces.
Nonsmokers were also at a disadvantage lobbying for state legislation, Glantz said: "The higher up you go in the political system, the louder those campaign contributions talk."
So the group turned to local lobbying. "Basically our strategy was to peck them to death," he added. "They (pro-tobacco forces) can't be everywhere at once."
A weak state law, with no enforcement provisions, was passed in 1976, governing only publicly owned buildings. In 1977, the first local ordinance to limit smoking in public places--stronger than the state law--passed in Berkeley.
Since then, there has been what ANR's Denise Kivlen called "the snowball effect." Of the current 75 laws, two passed in 1981, 10 in 1984 and 41 in 1985. The state law has also been amended to include other areas, such as public transportation, food stores and government workplaces.
Leader in the Field
Today, local ordinances exist in major cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento, and smaller municipalities such as Hemet, Laguna Beach, Menlo Park and West Hollywood.
The laws vary in strength, some ordering smoke-free sections in the workplace, restaurants or stores as well as public facilities, and some not. But the sheer number of them has made California a leader in the field, according to John F. Banzhaf III, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health in Washington, founded in 1967 to seek national nonsmoking policies.
Though California was not the first with statewide anti-smoking regulations (Arizona was, in 1973), he said, "The combination of state and local laws in California gives people more protection than in most states."
To help get laws passed, CNR/ANR's staff of five functions as "a catalyst," Glantz said, advising people seeking legislation in local communities. The group provides materials such as a "model" ordinance, copies of different laws that have passed or published medical data on the physical effects of tobacco smoke on nonsmokers.