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Equitable Enforcement in Tobacco

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.

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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.

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