This fall, Counter Tools joined a working group of public health advocates to develop a collective statement on equitable tobacco control enforcement. More than 40 public health organizations endorsed and released the statement this month, titled Tobacco Control Enforcement for Racial Equity: Decriminalizing Commercial Tobacco – Addressing Systemic Racism in the Enforcement of Commercial Tobacco Control. The document provides “aspirational principles to help local and state health departments, decisionmakers, advocates and other stakeholders advance equitable enforcement practices related to purchase, possession, sale and distribution of all tobacco products.”

As we continue to address disparities in the retail environment caused by the tobacco industry, we must also call out the inequities that exist in the protection and coverage of tobacco control legislation, and the enforcement of this legislation. We have our work cut out for us. We need to address where and how public health laws contribute to systemic racism and discrimination. But we are also optimistic about the strong commitment of many public health advocates who stand behind the guiding principles in this document. We will be working with our partners in the coming weeks to support needed followup guidance, research and conversations around how to make these aspirational changes a reality.