1. Repeal preemption as it relates to smokefree air laws in public places;
2. Increase the tobacco tax by $1.00 per pack; and
3. Increase the age of sale for tobacco products to 21.
It was a disappointing 2016 legislative session in Tennessee related to tobacco control policy. There was a Tobacco 21 bill filed by Representative Ramsey in the House that would not have even been heard in committee had it not been for the State Health Commissioner Dreyzehner testifying on behalf of it.
Preemption continues to be a barrier in passing any effective or strong smokefree laws in the state. The state of Tennessee passed legislation in 1994 giving complete control over tobacco regulation to the state. Protecting tobacco farmers in Tennessee was a large part of the rationale behind tobacco preemption at the time this legislation was passed.
Numerous health based tobacco coalition partners feel the time is ripe to fight tobacco preemption in Tennessee. There is a strong will for increased local control at our legislature as evidenced by increased de-annexation legislation in the last 2 years. There was also laws passed that allowed for exemptions to allow Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville and a major aquatic center in Kingsport to go smokefree. This began to set the stage for the possibility to challenge preemption in the state of Tennessee. The Lung Association and our partner organizations began to meet with state and local officials to gain support for a bill in 2017 that would repeal preemption in the state and give local control to communities to allow them to pass stronger smokefree laws.
In the meantime, on a local level there was positive voluntary smokefree movement in Chattanooga with an alliance of a number of mayors from the area who promoted smokefree parks and public places in their communities. A billboard and social media campaign launched the initiative and gained much earned media. In addition, Memphis and Kingsport worked on voluntary smokefree parks and public places as well and gained a lot of momentum and earned media in those communities.
Another major area of concern was the allotment of tobacco Master Settlement Agreement money to tobacco control and cessation programs for three years runs out in 2016, and no legislation to continue this funding was approved.
Overall, Tennessee legislators have much work to do to protect the people in the state from secondhand smoke, preventing kids from ever starting to smoke, and helping those who want to quit.