Get to Know State Legislators – General Policy Development

Description of Strategy

Numerous communities have implemented laws and policies to effect population health and reduce long-term medical and other costs. Examples include: broad-based policies, such as smoking bans; targeted laws, such as child safety seat laws; educational requirements, such as vaccinations for school attendance; and community-wide interventions, such as water fluoridation (Guide to Community Preventive Services, 2012).

One way to influence the laws and policies that relate to substance abuse is through legislative advocacy. Legislative advocacy can involve anything from working personally with a legislator on the wording of a bill, to mobilizing hundreds or even thousands of supporters to voice their opinions to the legislature with phone calls about an issue. Advocacy can require educating legislators, supporters, and the public about the issue; working with the media; continuously seeking out allies; and being persistent over long periods of time. Law makers can support substance abuse prevention by promoting a bill related to prevention, creating a local ordinance that supports prevention, advocating for budget reforms, gaining political support for a project/campaign, or creating networking connections for support of a program/campaign.

In substance abuse prevention, policy development at the local ordinance level is common. For example, in the past few years, many town Boards of Health have banned smoking in restaurants in order to protect non-smoking patrons from the effects of secondhand smoke (Community Toolbox, 2012). In Wyoming, several cities have developed policies to enact Clean Indoor Air ordinances despite the lack of regulation at the state level (CDC, 2011).

Also known as...

Alcohol public policy, policy changes around alcohol availability, beer tax education/policy change, legislative education, social action on secondhand smoke

Discussion of Effectiveness

Alcohol

There is limited literature that evaluates the effectiveness of policy change through campaigns to influence the state legislature on alcohol, tobacco, and other drug related outcomes. One study that evaluated policy development found that, in general, regulatory policies where youth were included in the development of the policy were effective for decreasing tobacco sales and purchase but did not have significant results for alcohol consumption (Pentz, 2000). Policy development is often used in conjunction with other prevention measures and can be the byproduct of successful coalition building (Stevenson & Mitchell, 2003).

Tobacco

There is limited literature that evaluates the effectiveness of policy change through campaigns to influence the state legislature on alcohol, tobacco, and other drug related outcomes. One study that evaluated policy development found that, in general, regulatory policies where youth were included in the development of the policy were effective for decreasing tobacco sales and purchase but did not have significant results for alcohol consumption (Pentz, 2000). Policy development is often used in conjunction with other prevention measures and can be the byproduct of successful coalition building (Stevenson & Mitchell, 2003).

Prescription & Other Drugs

There is limited literature that evaluates the effectiveness of policy change through campaigns to influence the state legislature on alcohol, tobacco, and other drug related outcomes. One study that evaluated policy development found that, in general, regulatory policies where youth were included in the development of the policy were effective for decreasing tobacco sales and purchase but did not have significant results for alcohol consumption (Pentz, 2000). Policy development is often used in conjunction with other prevention measures and can be the byproduct of successful coalition building (Stevenson & Mitchell, 2003).