Background: Municipal smoke-free spaces bylaws are a common population-level intervention to address the prominent health risks associated with exposure to second-hand smoke. In Canada, bylaw prevalence is increasing, but inequities in level of protection across communities remain as bylaws vary from place to place. Little is known about the role of place in this policy disparity. To address this gap, this study examined associations between community characteristics and municipal smoke-free spaces policy outcomes to elucidate how ecological conditions are associated with bylaw status and strength.
Method: Smoke-free public place and workplace bylaws were obtained from all municipalities with a population of >or=5000 in the provinces of Alberta (N=78) and Ontario (N=245), Canada. Bylaws were assigned a strength score (ranging 0-100) rating the degree of bylaw comprehensiveness, restrictiveness and enforcement provisions. These data were then linked to socio-demographic data from the Canadian Census (1996) and the Canadian Community Health Survey Cycle 1.1 (2000/2001). Logistic and multiple linear regression analyses were used to develop models for municipal bylaw status and strength using community factors including: socio-demographics, municipality type, health region smoking rates, and provincial tobacco control environment.
Conclusions: Study findings suggest that community characteristics play a key role in the status and strength of municipal smoke-free bylaws. As smoking bans continue to emerge world-wide under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, knowledge about conditions that promote policy success will be critical for those in need of immediate information to maximize policy-making in their own settings. Use of community profiles that consider socio-demographics along with broader contextual factors can aid decision-makers, public health advocates, and researchers in identifying similar jurisdictions with a successful smoke-free spaces policy and communicating with them about their policy-making experiences. Knowledge about the conditions associated with municipal policy-development may be translated to other jurisdictions where information is sparse, or evidence is newly emerging.