The Bureau of Tobacco-Free Florida launched a pilot program in 2017 that provided 12 counties with grant funding to pursue local tobacco retailer licensing. Alachua County was one of the counties selected, as its Department of Health already had a history of leadership on tobacco control issues.
Alachua County worked closely with independently-led local tobacco-free partnerships and coalitions. There were concerns about a conflict preemption with state law, and an attorney advised that the Alachua County Department of Health could not recommend the passage of Tobacco 21 laws. However, as private citizens, the members of the Tobacco Free Alachua partnership were able to do some of the advocacy work that Alachua County DOH was restricted from conducting.
“I remember discussing early on with one of our coalition chairs that DOH would only approve of us pursuing licensing, and that we would have to avoid any discussion of T21. In a way, this helped solidify the boundaries between our activities, and let us as staff focus on understanding the best practices mechanics of a license, while the volunteer coalition members embraced their role of being community champions building support for the policy.” – Andrew Romero, Tobacco-Free Alachua
Key partners also included Gainesville 4 All, Alachua County Healthcare Advisory Board, Local PTAs, the American Heart Association, and more. From each group they engaged with, the partnership leaders asked for support in some way – whether that was through a letter of support, an e-mail or call to county commissioners, or writing a piece for the local newspaper.
Throughout this work, Counter Tools provided the Bureau of Tobacco-Free Florida’s existing base of knowledge with training and message framing on why the retail environment matters and an increased understanding of tobacco retailer licensing and relevant strategies.
To make the case for tobacco retailer licensing across the county, different talking points were developed for different audiences, and significant efforts were made to reach out to rural communities. The campaign was also powered by ongoing conversations in the community, for example a recent report on racial equity in Alachua County.