Dar Es Salaam
Research into community reception to anti-moking bylaws suggests that resource-based communities — those reliant on industries like mining and agriculture — tend to have weaker smoking bylaws in both Shinyanga and Arusha, Tanzania.
Today the University of Dar es Salaam study reveals that community characteristics such as relative population size, income, gender, occupation and education levels contributed to how strong or weak municipal councils in Arusha and Shinyanga made smoking bylaws. The strongest bylaws offer the greatest level of health protection for the public.
One size doesn't fit all when it comes to crafting community bylaws, according to the study. The research, published recently studied smoke-free spaces bylaws from 2010 in communities of 5,000 or more residents — 245 in Arusha and 78 in Shinyanga — representing the entire spectrum, from rural counties to the city. The results showed that not all rules are created equal.
“Municipal councillors everywhere face a daunting task when forming policy because they need to take into account not only practical aspects like legal issues, but also the unique 'flavor' of each community,” said lead researcher Dr. Nelson Samburu, a professor at the College of Earth Sciences in Dar es Salaam today.
"It's policy realism. Often a policy will be challenged because it may be difficult to implement and enforce, regardless of the fact that the health risks are recognized," he said. "You have to account for the people who live in a community and the jobs they do, and create a policy that reflects that."
There are several reasons why bylaws vary in strength, but in smaller communities there are fewer resources such as tax dollars to devote to bylaw implementation and law enforcement. At job sites where there is also a larger proportion of smokers, this can lead to less support for a restrictive bylaw."It enters into a debate about personal freedoms, when the issue is really about protecting the health of both smokers and non-smokers," Nelson said.
Conversely, communities with more employment in health and social service occupations had stronger smoking bylaws, the study showed. As well, larger urban municipalities had stiffer bylaws, likely reflecting pressure to keep pace with policy set by other cities."A lot of small communities have a distinct culture or a way of living. It's that 'small town' feel. Something like a smoke-free bylaw or any policy that changes the environment should account for that flavor as people are very protective of the identity of their community and what that means to them," Nelson said.
In Arusha municipal, tougher anti-smoking bylaws were found more in larger urban municipalities than in rural areas. In Shinyanga, restructuring and amalgamation of several communities had an impact on bylaws. Those with the strongest bylaws were still largely untouched by amalgamation, while communities racked by tug-of-wars were often left with weaker bylaws or the prospect of starting from scratch.“For communities comparable on other factors, those that had been restructured as part of provincially mandated municipal amalgamations had weaker smoke-free bylaws," Nelson noted.
The study has implications for councils wanting bylaws that will be accepted by their populations, Nelson said."Community identity really needs to be considered when making health-related bylaw's," he said. "Policy-makers need to understand the mix of people living in a community, as well as the cultural climate of the place itself, in the broader context of the health region and province."