Smoke-Free Public Places Advocacy: Step-by-Step Guide

Preparing to lobby your local town or municipal councils for smoking bylaws in public places is a process that demands time, patience, enthusiasm and support. Smoke-Free Kings has had the opportunity to experience first-hand, the trials and tribulations of trying to encourage councils in Kings County to implement 100% smoke-free bans in their respective jurisdictions.

We are pleased to be able to share our experiences, insights and learnings with others who are also trying to improve the health of their communities by lobbying for similar smoke-free legislation.

This page provides a step-by-step, how-to approach for individuals and organizations who are working towards developing smoke-free bylaws. You will find sample letters, ideas for soliciting support, presentations for councils, advice on public hearings, how to celebrate successes and more. On behalf of Smoke-Free Kings, we hope you will find this information helpful on your journey to advocating for change!


  1. Create a Committee
  2. Develop a Statement of Purpose and Slogan
  3. Research Public Places Legislation in Other Jurisdictions
  4. Develop a Communication Strategy
  5. Compile an Information Package for Councils
  6. Solicit Support
  7. Make Presentations to Councils
  8. The Public Hearing: Prepare for Opposition
  9. Celebrate Successes
  10. Support for Municipalities and Towns after Bylaw Implementation
  11. Continued Support to Other Jurisdictions
  12. Lobbying for a 100% Provincial Smoke-Free Ban in Public Places
  13. Time-Line and Summary of Events
  14. MLA Contact Info / Premier / Provincial Contact Info. / Sample Letter of Support
  15. Learnings
  16. Link to Town of Wolfville Bylaw
  17. Link to Town of Berwick Bylaw
  18. Link to Bill 125

1) Create a Committee

  • -Bring stakeholders to the table.
  • -Invite representatives from local municipal and town councils, representatives from the business community, health professionals and community volunteers to form a Smoke-Free Places Committee.

The Smoke-Free Kings Public Places Committee consisted of representatives from:

  • – The Towns of Wolfville, Kentville and Berwick and the Municipality of Kings
  • – The business community
  • – The Canadian Cancer Society
  • – The Tobacco Control Unit
  • – Addiction Services
  • – Public Health Services
  • – Smoke-Free Kings members

Return to Table of Contents

2) Develop a Statement of Purpose and Slogan

When creating your own statement of purpose be clear and concise.

The Statement of Purpose for the Smoke Free Kings Public Places Committee was:

To foster healthier communities through the creation of smoke-free legislation in Kings County.”

Our slogan was:

Breathe Easy in Kings County.”


-Why not host a slogan contest? -Use your statement of purpose amd slogan in your promotion and advertising, and if you have a logo, use that as well. Soon your community will be familiar with your group and your purpose.

Return to Table of Contents

3) Research Public Places Legislation in Other Jurisdictions

Become familiar with terminology, wording, exemptions, and bylaw differences and similarities. Determine the scope and definitions of what you want to recommend.


“PUBLIC PLACES”: According to the Model Ordinance Eliminating Smoking in Workplaces and Enclosed Public Places (Americans for Non-smokers Rights, Berkeley, California): “Public places means any enclosed indoor area to which the public is invited or in which the public is permitted, including, but not limited to, malls. bingo halls, restaurants, bars, retails stores, elevators, public transportation, theatres, indoor sports facilities, child care facilities and common use areas of public buildings (including reception areas, lobbies, entrances and waiting rooms.”

Smoking is not regulated in private residences, with the exception of those offering child care, adult care or health care facilities.

“DRINKING ESTABLISHMENT” will be used to define licensed lounges, cabarets, beverage rooms, pubs and taverns. We brainstormed our own list of public places, indicating whether we thought they should be smoke-free, should not be smoke-free, or were questionable.

“PROXIMITY”: According to the Model Ordinance (Berkeley, California) Section 1006, Reasonable Distance: “Smoking shall occur at a reasonable distance outside any enclosed area where smoking is prohibited to ensure that tobacco smoke does not enter the area through entrances, windows, ventilation systems or any other means.”

-See “The Economic Impact of Smoke-Free Workplaces: An Assessment for Nova Scotia” prepared by Ronald Colman, PH.D. GPI Atlantic, September 2001.

Return to Table of Contents

4) Develop a Communication Strategy

-The media can become your best friend or your worst enemy. -Develop a sub-committee to focus solely on communication, particularly with the media. -Develop public awareness messages on the risks of second-hand smoke and the benefits of smoke-free spaces (info-columns). -Write letters to the editor. -Invite councillors to an information event, such as a dinner, with guest speakers. -Send a press release to your local newspaper -Identify potential partners and opponents. -Identify all media outlets (ie- radio, newspapers, cable TV, bulletins, etc.)


  • -Who do you wish to influence?
  • -Partners who can help us
  • -Potential opponents
  • -Youth involvement
  • -Media
  • -Information dissemination
  • -Advocacy strategy
  • -Outline of health communication campaign
  • -Time-frame
  • -Develop “Fact Sheets” on ETS
  • -Poster contest (KATS- Kids Against Tobacco Smoke) or essay contest for high schools.
  • -Solicit prizes
  • -Publicize winners in media
  • -National Non-Smoking Week promotion

-ACTION PLAN may include:

  • Before During After
  • -Media
  • -Public
  • -Business
  • -Political


Our ACTION PLAN looked like this:




MEDIA Media package Public Hearing Reports Public Education Corporate sponsorship Press Releases, Ads, Information, Columns

PUBLIC Articles/Media Attend Public Hearings Flyers in mail ETS info blitz Invite champions Media info on Economic benefits by-law Stories Youth Input

BUSINESS Contact Merchants’ Invite supportive Education Assoc. business leaders Signage Dialogue / Contacts to Public Hearings Reinforce by-laws Economic benefits facts

POLITICAL Develop speakers Attend Public Hearings Help support for Public Hearings Information Appeals New media/Council pkgs. Support Evidence-based facts Letters to partners Endorsement letters Phone campaign to Councillors Invitations to Public Hearings



Did you know that if you are sitting in a smoky bar for two hours, you’ve smoked the equivalent of four cigarettes, even if you are a non-smoker? Or if you are eating in a smoke-filled restaurant for two hours, you’ve smoked one and a half cigarettes? (1)

Second-hand smoke, or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is a mixture of exhaled smoke and the smoke produced from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar. Altogether, there are 4,000 chemicals produced, including at least 50 which are known cancer-causing agents. Many of these toxic components of second-hand smoke are also found in industrial effluent and are treated as hazardous waste.

Tobacco smoke is the most widespread contaminant of indoor air, at home, in workplaces, in eating establishments and in public places. Remember, there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke, and even the smallest exposure to these carcinogens can cause damage that can lead to cancer, respiratory illnesses, heart disease, asthma and infections. Children are especially vulnerable, increasing their risks for ear infections, asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

According to the Kings County Second-Hand Smoke Survey (Smoke-Free Kings,1997), the majority of both smokers and non-smokers recognize the risks of second-hand smoke and believe that public places should be smoke-free.

What can we do? Let your family and friends know that you DO mind if they smoke indoors. Support smoke-free businesses. Maintain a smoke-free home and workplace. Always provide your children with clean indoor air quality.

In Nova Scotia, 71% of our population consists of non-smokers, so let’s make smoke-free environments the norm. We’ll all breathe a little easier. For further information on ETS, call Lila Hope-Simpson, Co-Ordinator, Smoke-Free Kings, (902)542-2057.

(1) School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley -30- 5)

Return to Table of Contents

5) Compile an Information Package for Councils

-Take the time to develop a concise, evidence-based information package for distribution to councillors prior to the council meeting presentation. The package may include: -Letter of introduction -Facts on second-hand smoke -Letters of support -Success stories form other jurisdictions -Info on your organization -Facts on ETS (Environmental Tobacco Smoke0 -“Is your head in a cloud?” -Question & Answer Sheet -Presentation summary notes -Press release

-Have info packages for media as well.

-Develop a draft bylaw.

-At the presentation, use the following points: -Health risks -Cost to health care -Effects on communities -Effects on businesses (restaurants, B&B’s, bars, etc.) -Smoke ventilation -Leadership -Community support -Impact on tourism -Statistics on tourism percentages -Evidence showing no decrease in business, and in many cases, increases.

-Identify barriers, and address the issues ( ie- fund-raising- bingo’s legions, etc.; enforcement, delay of implementation, etc.)

Return to Table of Contents

6) Solicit Support

  • -Make personal contact with champions in your community (business owners, professionals, residents, politicians, youth, restaurant & bar owners, etc.)
  • -Encourage them to get involved by:
    • -Joining your committee
    • -Writing letters to councillors
    • -Writing letters-to-the-editor
    • -Talking to their colleagues
    • -Coming to public hearings
  • -Ask community members to write letters of support to include in your information packages. Possible supporters may be:
    • -Representatives from the Canadian Cancer Society, Heart Health, NS Lung Association, Community Health Boards, District Health Authorities
    • -Addiction Services
    • -Local physicians
    • -Local Community Health Centres
    • -Businesses (including restaurants and tourism establishments)
    • -Local dentists
    • -Child care community
    • -Youth and students
    • -MLA’s
    • -Regional School Board
    • -Family Suppport Centres
  • -Send a letter to potential supporters, seeking letters on agency letterhead.
  • -Host a Councillor Information Session:
    • -To clearly define councillor concerns about the bylaw and to build the agenda to address these concerns.
    • -To increase awareness of support for restricting tobacco use.
    • -To increae awareness of second-hand smoke information.

The goal is for councillors to be motivated to take action and to believe that this is a good thing for their town / municipality. Our Councillor Information Session was held on April 5, 2001 at Paddy’s Pub in Kentville, from 5:30-7:30 pm, with dinner included.


  • -Welcome & Introductions
  • -History / Survey -Bigger Strategy
  • -Business / Economic concerns
  • -Business Leader (speaker owner of Tim Hortons’s)
  • -Dinner -Overview of Bylaw
  • -Recommendations / Resources
  • -Q&A -Networking

Our recommendation was for all councils to implement a 100% smoke-free public places bylaw by July 2001.

Sample letter seeking community support:

SMOKE-FREE KINGS EKM Community Health Centre 23 Earnscliffe Avenue Wolfville, Nova Scotia B4P 2R1 Tel 902-679-2660

TO: Supporters of Smoke-Free By-Law for Kings County A new study by Health Canada “provides some of the most compelling scientific evidence yet for a total ban on workplace smoking, including restaurants and bars.” (The Canadian Press, July 13, 2001). This study demonstrates how people who are routinely exposed to second-hand smoke can triple their risk of lung cancer.

We are looking for help and support from stakeholders to help pass a by-law which would create 100% smoke-free indoor public places in Kings County. At this time, the four councils, including the Towns of Wolfville, Kentville & Berwick and the Municipality of Kings are looking at a draft by-law which would be passed at the same time in each community, to create a level playing field. The Towns of Wolfville and Berwick have already voted YES to the bylaw! Experience shows that strong municipal bylaws directly influence the passage of provincial legislation.

Councillors represent their constituents. So, in order for them to vote YES to this by-law, which would be introduced to protect the health of both clients and employees, our councillors need to hear from supporters, especially those in their communities. Councillors read every letter and communication they receive, and these have a strong influence in their decision-making.

Your voice can have a significant impact in the direction Kings County takes to protect the health of our communities. We ask you to take a few minutes to write, e-mail, fax or call your councillors, mayor or warden as soon as possible. Your contribution will make a difference. We thank you in advance for your support in helping us all breathe easy in Kings County!

Mayor Robert Stead, Town of Wolfville
Mayor Gary Pearl, Town of Kentville
Mayor John Prall, Town of Berwick
Warden Fred Whalen, Municipality of Kings

Return to Table of Contents

7) Make Presentations to Councils

  • -Call well ahead to be placed on the agenda. Most councils meet monthly.
  • -Distribute packages ahead of time for councillors to review.
  • -Invite as many supporters as possible to sit in the audience.
  • -Have one or two committee members make the presentation, referring to the packages and using power point or overhead slides to highlight key points.
  • -Make a request that the town or municipality begin the process to pass a bylaw for a 100% smoking ban in public places.

Return to Table of Contents

8) The Public Hearing: Prepare for Opposition

  • -Now is the time to mobilize all of your supporters, from business owners and health professionals, to students and residents.
  • -Have each supporter make a positive presentation lobbying for the passage of the bylaw.
  • -For supporters who are unable to attend, have them write, call, fax or e-mail their letters of support to the councillors prior to the public hearing.
  • -Be prepared for opposition from the hospitality industry, including, b&b owners, bar and restaurant owners, as well as the Legion and service groups.
  • -Keep your points evidence-based.
  • -Be prepared in advance for some of the opposition and prepare how to counter some of the myths and fears with facts.
  • -Stick to the health issues of second-hand smoke- steer away from issues as job losses, rights of smokers, loss of freedom, etc.
  • -Present arguments and evidence first. Acknowledge that restaurants and bars will be concerned about revenue losses and present evidence that credible research negates that, and indicated that although revenue may decrease for a few months, it tends to rise to at least as much or higher than before. Bring up business concerns FIRST.
  • -Attempt to create equality; everyone wants an equal playing field.
  • -Bingo halls & service clubs may protest on the basis of charity losses.
  • -Responding to Counter Attacks- A Framework Strategy to Defend the Bylaw against Opposition (prepared by Steve Machat, Canadian Cancer Society – January 2001)

Return to Table of Contents

9) Celebrate Successes

  • -Lobbying for change can be frustrating, challenging and downright hard work!
  • -Invite your supporters and celebrate even the smallest successes with pizza, cake, news releases, awards and certificates. Invite the media!
  • -Keep your volunteers engaged and appreciated.
  • -Order a success cake!
  • -SFK made certificates that said: “Thank-you for all your efforts and hard work. Together, we HAVE made a difference!”

Return to Table of Contents

10) Support for Municipalities and Towns after Bylaw Implementation

  • -If you have any funds, help with signage, publicity, web-pages, etc. If your councils face opposition, stand behind them and help them develop strategies for standing firm.
  • -Celebrate with media coverage, awards, etc.
  • -Enforcement- Who will be responsible for enforcement? How can you help with merchant awareness and education for enforcement?
  • -Legal confrontations- offer support and evidence-based data if needed.
  • -Present the council with an award on the first anniversary of their bylaw. Invite the media!
  • -Congratulate your council on their leadership and encourage other organizations to applaud them as well.

Return to Table of Contents

11) Continued Support to Other Jurisdictions

  • -Share your experiences, write letters of support to newspapers in other municipalities , attend public hearings, write to MLA’s, etc.
  • -Let others know about the successful implementation of 100% smoke-free legislation in your community.

Return to Table of Contents

12) Lobbying for 100% Provincial Smoke-Free Ban in Public Places

  • -Lobby and advocate on the provincial level.
  • -Share the success of your municipality or town.
  • -Arrange meetings with MLA’s, the Premier, the Office of Health Promotion, etc.
  • -Attend public hearings.

Return to Table of Contents

13) Time-Line and Summary of Events

  • -Lobbying for new bylaws is a process which takes time. It is far better to move slowly and follow the steps, than to race by to a quick end.
  • -SFK took three years from the beginning of the formation of a committee until the first bylaw was passed in Wolfville. SFK sat around the table for the first public places committee meeting on September 21, 1999. The first bylaw as passed by the Town of Wolfville on January 1, 2002
  • -The best time for the passage of a new bylaw is usually spring, when the weather is milder and more conducive to smoking outside.
  • -Document all of your steps towards bylaw implementation.


Summary of Events

  • Sept. 21, 1999 First committee meeting (instigated by a municipal councillor seeking support from Smoke-Free Kings)
  • Nov.17, 1999 Todd Leader shares HRM experience
  • Dec. 8, 1999 Strategy Development
  • Jan.12, 2000 Partners identified for letters of support Time Line for Action developed
  • Jan. 17, 2000 Requests sent to supporters seeking letters of support
  • Jan. 2000 Press Release on Smoke-Free Public Places: “It’s Time!”
  • Feb 16, 2000 Presentation preparation for councils
  • Feb. 24, 2000 Review council packages & presentations
  • March 8, 2000 Review presentation content
  • March 21, 2000 Presentation to Town of Berwick council
  • March 28, 2000 Presentation to Municipality of Kings council
  • April 3, 2000 Presentation to Town of Wolfville council
  • April 12, 2000 Presentation of Town of Kentville council
  • April 26, 2000 Strategy for first committee meeting with council reps
  • June 7, 2000 First joint meeting with SFK and council reps
  • June 21, 2000 Working groups formed:
    • -Evidence-based Research / Q & A
    • -Communication Strategy Development
    • -Communication Implementation
    • -Bylaw Writing
    • -Documentation / Evaluation
    • -New Time-Line developed
  • July 5, 2000 Definition of public places
  • July 19, 2000 Updates; definitions
  • Aug. 2, 2000 Cape Breton bylaw draft Enforcement Definitions Working Group updates
  • Aug. 30, 2000 Advocacy & information dissemination Identify potential partners and opponents
  • Oct. 4, 2000 Communication strategy Evidence- based planning Bylaw draft
  • Nov. 3, 2000 Need for name of public places committee Slogan; promotion KATS Poster contest Planning of Information Session for councillors Bylaw draft review
  • Dec. 6, 2000 Plan promotional page for national Non-Smoking Week KATS poster contest winners announced Info-kits for new councillors Next steps brainstormed
  • Jan. 10, 2001 Working group reports Campaign tagline decided: “Breathing Easy in Kings County” Committee name selected: “Smoke-Free Places Committee for Kings County” Time-line revisited
  • Jan. 21, 2000 “Responding to Counter Attacks” A Framework Strategy to Defend the bylaw against Opposition, prepared by Steve Machat.
  • March 8, 2001 Councillor Information Session planning group
  • March 29, 2001 Councillor Information Session planning / resources
  • April 5, 2001 Dinner & Discussion (Information Session for councillors) Paddy’s Pub, Kentville
  • May 2, 2001 Updates Media strategy
  • May 8, 2001 Council meeting, Town of Wolfville
  • May 15, 2001 Council meeting, Municipality of Kings
  • May 22, 2001 Council meeting, Town of Berwick
  • May 31, 2001 Review of public hearings and meetings June 4, 2001 Council meeting, Town of Kentville
  • June 21, 2001 Mobilizing support and attendance to public meetings Identify supporters from each town
  • June 27, 2001 Feedback, concerns & options from towns
  • July 10, 2001 1st public hearing, Town of Berwick
  • July 12, 2001 Meeting with Mayor Bob Stead, Wolfville
  • July 13, 2001 Council updates; review of letters of support
  • July 16, 2001 Letter sent to business owners and residents of Kings County seeking support.
  • July 16, 2001 2nd reading, Town of Wolfville
  • Aug. 21, 2001 Council meeting, Municipality of Kings
  • Aug. 30, 2001 Activity / Council updates Provincial news Next steps
  • Sept. 11, 2001 2nd reading, Town of Berwick
  • Sept. 12, 2001 2nd reading, Town of Kentville
  • Sept. 26, 2001 Council reports Partners (NS Lung Assoc, Canadian Cancer Society) Use of media Evaluating our experience
  • Oct. 11-12, 2001 Provincial Tobacco Conference Nova Scotia Communities Taking Action Kespuwick Training Centre, Clementsport, NS Oct. 18, 2001 Council updates Thanks-you’s to Wolfville & Berwick Recruitment of new committee members
  • Nov. 7, 2001 Strategic Planning meeting Nov. 13, 2001 Thank-you’s to Town of Berwick (NS Lung Assoc. Junior Ambassador)
  • Nov. 19, 2001 Thank-you’s to Town of Wolfville (NS Lung Assoc. Junior Ambassador)
  • Dec. 5, 2001 Council updates Signage National Non-Smoking Week promotional ad AGM
  • Jan. 1, 2002 Town of Wolfville implements bylaw
  • Jan. 9, 2002 Thank-you’s to Town of Kentville
  • Jan.14, 2002 Meeting with MLA’s Jon Carey (KIngs West) & Mark Parent (KIngs North)
  • Jan.18, 2002 Meeting with Dave Morse, MLA (Kings South), Minister of Environment and Labour
  • Jan.21, 2002 Town of Windsor information session
  • Jan.24, 2002 Council updates Report on meeting with MLA’s Municipality of Kings strategy Feb.22, 2002 Council updates Acadia University update Provincial update AGM
  • March 25, 2002 Town of Windsor, Public Meeting
  • March 27, 2002 Updates Strategy development
  • April 1, 2002 Towns of Kentville & Berwick bylaw implementation
  • May 2, 2002 Smoke-Free Kings AGM / Celebration, Kings Arm Pub, Kentville: Celebrating 100% smoke-free towns in Kings County

Return to Table of Contents

14) MLA Contact Info / Premier / Provincial Contact Info. / Sample Letter of Support


Sample Letter of Support:

Dear MLA / Premier / Minister,

As a resident of (county), Nova Scotia, I am writing to ask for your support for legislation of a 100% ban on smoking in all indoor public places.

The health risks associated with exposure to second-hand smoke are well known. We know that there are demonstrated health effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke, which is linked to lung cancer, stroke, asthma and heart disease. There are no acceptable safe levels of exposure to ETS (environmental tobacco smoke).

Legislation protecting the public from second-hand smoke has been successfully implemented incommunities across North America. The bylws have not been associated with detrimental effects on local businesses. In fact, as part of a comprehensive tobacco strategy, these bylaws have contributed to an overall reduction in tobacco use in many communmities.

It is time for Nova Scotia to take major steps toward protecting the health of its citizens. Every Nova Scotian should be exposed to clean air in public places and in the work place. Healthy communities across the province should be pour collective goal.

I encourage you to support the implementation of legislation for a 100% ban on smoking in public places in Nova Scotia. I look forward to hearing of your support for this legislation.


Return to Table of Contents

15) Learnings:

  • 1) Get to know your councillors. Understand their position. Call them. Speak to them. Keep them up to date on your activities.
  • 2) Be ready for opposition. It will be loud and organized.
  • 3) Develop a time-line sufficient for each step. Don’t be in a hurry. Be flexible.
  • 4) Develop a media / communications strategy from the beginning.
  • 5) Work collaboratively with community stakeholders/politicians.
  • 6) Identify and rally supporters and champions.
  • 7) Be prepared with evidence-based questions and answers well in advance.
  • 8) Keep your sense of humour.
  • 9) Set goals; clarify roles.
  • 10) Gain clear understanding of municipal bylaw and government process.
  • 11) Take the time to build relationships.
  • 12) Recruit passionate, motivated people.
  • 13) Expect the unexpected.
  • 14) Be prepared for conflict. Don’t take it personally.
  • 15) Stay encouraged. Celebrate successes

And more learnings…..

  • Never underestimate the strength of feelings that opponents have on this issue. Be prepared, but do not be overwhelmed by the intensity of the opposition. Include all possible opponents in initial discussions.
  • Remember that the legislators are often concerned with getting re-elected and must be convinced that this will help them win more votes than it loses them.
  • Although the question of “level playing field” is important. opinion is rapidly changing, so have the courage to act first.
  • Stay in it for the long term. Legislation doesn’t happen overnight.
  • Partner with a key group of individuals representing a variety of organizations.
  • Get your facts in order. Know and document the research- both health and economic.
  • Involve council members. Key contacts on council or staff is a great asset. Understanding municipal process is extremely important and the right contact person can be integral to moving the issue forward.

Return to Table of Contents

16) Town of Wolfville Bylaw: Chapter 72 Smoke-Free Indoor Public Places Bylaw (PDF file – requires the Adobe Reader to view or print.)

17) Town of Berwick Bylaw A Bylaw Prohibiting Smoking in Indoor Public Places

18) Link to Bill 125 Smoke-free Places Act (Nova Scotia Legislature)

Return to Table of Contents

Print Friendly, PDF & Email