Writing Your Elected Officials

Many of us would like our elected officials to enact measures that will improve our health and the health of our families and communities, but we don’t know where to start.  Below are a few tips and suggestions for talking points to help you get started.

Just a Few Easy Steps

  1. If you do not have a personal letterhead, MS Word has templates you can use  and there are other templates you can find for free online.  Using a formal letterhead will give your letter a more polished look and make sure you enter your contact information as well as the date in appropriate places.
  2. Use the proper form of address: for example: Dear Councilmember (name) or Dear Senator (name).  For more information you can check the UC Berkeley Library Guide https://guides.lib.berkeley.edu/ContactingOfficials/Tips
  3. State what the letter is about before diving in by using Re: (subject) The subject may be secondhand smoke in parks or multi-unit housing or another area, or maybe limiting the availability of tobacco or nicotine containing products.
  4. Short paragraph about why you care about the issue. How has it affected you or your family?
  5. Two to three short paragraphs with supporting facts. State the fact and add a sentence or two about why you believe it’s important.
  6. Conclude by thanking the elected officials for their time and repeating what you are asking them to do.

Supporting facts

Pick just a few facts that relate to what you want to request from your elected official and add a sentence or two about why you think it is important.

Health Effects

Tobacco products kills 480,000 people in this country alone, every year.  That’s over 1,300 deaths every day.  CDC

Tobacco kills up to half the people who continue to use it (those that don’t quit)  WHO

Tobacco related diseases include:

Heart disease


Cancers:  More than 100 different types including:   lung,  larynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, bladder, colon, rectum, kidney and more (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/cancer.html





Buerger’s Disease


Tobacco related diseases cause over $241 BILLION in health care related costs in the US EACH YEAR and $361 Billion in lost productivity cost  (CDC)

The cost of Secondhand smoke related illnesses to the US health care system is $6.5 Billion/year (CDC)

Environmental Harms

Cigarette butts are made of cellulose acetate which takes years to biodegrade.

Cigarette butts are the number 1 littered item in the world.

Cigarette butts contain all the toxic and cancer causing chemicals found in cigarettes, these chemicals leach back into our streams, lakes and oceans, poisoning fish, birds and other wildlife

E-cigarettes leave non- biodegradable, non-recyclable toxic e-waste.

Large swaths of rainforest are clear cut each year to grow tobacco and to supply wood for curing of it.

Secondhand smoke

Secondhand smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals including all the poisons and cancer-causing chemicals contained in first hand smoke.  CDC

There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.  Even brief exposures can cause serious harm.  CDC

Children are particularly vulnerable, having smaller and still growing lungs.  CDC

Secondhand smoke can cause sudden infant death syndrome. CDC

Secondhand smoke can drift through vents, electrical outlets, windows and doors, cracks in walls, etc.  CDC https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/secondhand-smoke/index.html

Aerosols from e-cigarettes also contain harmful chemicals and heavy metals which can cause harm.  CDC


Many cities and some countries have recognized the importance of reducing exposure to secondhand smoke and limiting the availability of tobacco.

Commercial tobacco sales have no purpose other that to make tobacco companies money.

Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach have banned the sale of cigarettes and most other tobacco products.

An increasing number of countries have plans to reduce smoking rates to under 5% in the next 5-15 years and are enacting policies to make that happen.  California has an endgame goal of reducing tobacco use to under 5% of the population by 2035.  Canada has the same goal as do other countries.

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