How a Public Official in the Heartland Beat Big Tobacco

Michael Givel, University of Oklahoma, Andrew L. Spivak, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

After decades of catering to industry, Oklahoma legislators passed tough indoor air rules in response to a campaign led by advocates and a determined health official.

Givel and Spivak's brief presents key findings from their newly published book Heartland Tobacco War (Lexington Books, 2013), where they tell a dramatic story of political battles over public health waged in Oklahoma starting in the 1980s. Givel and Spivak dissect the surprising 2003 legal victories for indoor clean air regulations and tobacco taxes achieved when advocacy groups appealed to public opinion in concert with a maverick Oklahoma Health Commissioner. This case study reveals how public-interest campaigns can achieve leverage and victories even in apparently unpromising political contexts.

Learn more about Michael Givel's research and media contributions on the politics of tobacco regulation, as well as his research on environmental and social-welfare issues. Another SSN brief by Givel focuses on public interest advocacy for environmental improvements in poor Oklahoma communities.

Andrew Spivak has pursued a wide-ranging agenda of research on issues of crime and delinquency, racial segregation in American cities, and sexual violence, in addition to his research with Givel on the politics of tobacco regulation. Before taking up his career in academia, he worked at the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and he has given invited presentations to police departments and judicial officers. He makes regular contributions to the print and television media in Las Vegas.

October 2013