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NAQC Newsroom: Tobacco Control

Candidate Education Materials from SmokeFree Wisconsin

Monday, August 23, 2010  
Posted by: Natalia Gromov

SmokeFree Wisconsin held a webinar with Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids on Aug. 17th, 2010 about messaging tactics for educating state legislative candidates on important health issues in Wisconsin. It has been brought to my attention that there is interest nationally to learn more about how we approach this in our state.

Election season is a prime opportunity for advocates to make contact with elected officials and candidates. Many officeholders are more accessible to the public during this period so scheduling meetings and getting them to commit to events is more likely. Taking this opportunity to educate and inform candidates is invaluable, in particular to those who may have limited knowledge of the issues. The materials are largely used to educate on the impact of funding for tobacco control and the severity and ever-changing nature of the threat of tobacco on public health. It is always more productive to reach out to these individuals before they are elected because it allows advocates to establish a relationship earlier indicating a willingness to educate and inform. It can also make them aware of the strength of the coalition, supporting better public health policies.

In order to maintain a strong relationship with elected officials, we pursue a strategy of reaching out to candidates during the campaign cycle by providing information packets and scheduling in-person meetings with the candidates and potentially arranging for candidate forums with the community. Since many districts significantly favor candidates aligned with a particular party, it is important to identify these situations and make contact prior to the candidate becoming the presumptive officeholder often meaning prior to the primary. We have found that it is incredibly valuable to involve the community in this process so the candidates can see how important these health issues are to their potential constituents. The period of time immediately following election is also a crucial time to make contact with officials particularly through in-district meetings. During these times, officials’ schedules are generally more open and they have more of an opportunity to learn about the issues without distractions.

Here are the candidate education materials on tobacco, which we distribute to multi-jurisdictional coalitions throughout the state to pass on to the legislative candidates in their districts. Here is also the action plan for the Sustaining States Initiative which is used as a guideline for promoting sustainability in Wisconsin.

Source: e-mail communication from Maureen Maureen Busalacchi, SmokeFree Wisconsin

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