Public Health Law Research Book Club: “The New Public Health Law”

Cover of new textbook, The New Public Health LawThe newest textbook in public health law comes from Scott Burris, Micah Berman, Matthew Penn and Tara Ramanathan Holiday. The New Public Health Law is an effort to equip students in law, public health, social work and other fields in the public health and social policy realms with the tools to fully exploit the potential of law to improve public health. It takes a transdisciplinary approach, breaking down complex legal processes into discrete and understandable stages, using examples from the field.

We asked authors Micah Berman and Scott Burris about the textbook’s new approach to teaching and learning public health law.

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Cottage Food and Food Freedom Laws – New LawAtlas data

The newest map on LawAtlas.org analyzes state laws governing the production, sale, and regulation of cottage food operations.

Typically, commercial food production is required to take place in certified commercial kitchens that are heavily regulated. Cottage foods laws regulate the production and sale of certain foods (foods less likely to cause foodborne illness, such as jams and baked goods) made in home kitchens, rather than a licensed commercial kitchen, and a person’s ability sell them in venues like farm stands or retail stores. Similar state laws, called “food freedom laws,” expand upon cottage food laws to include potentially hazardous products like meat and poultry.

These laws are quickly becoming an increasing area of debate at the state level.  Part of this debate centers on the economic rights of “small-batch” home bakers and cooks versus public health and safety concerns. These private bakers, canners, and cooks want the liberty to sell their products to consumers free from the onerous licensing requirements required of their larger commercial counterparts, restaurants and food processing plants, are subject to.  At the same time, there is concern that this individual economic interest is riding roughshod over existing regulations designed to protect consumers from foodborne illnesses that can be caused by improperly prepared foods.

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Policy Surveillance Summer Institute 2018

Join us for the Policy Surveillance Program’s 3rd annual Summer Institute, June 7-8. The 2018 Summer Institute will teach public health law research methods, with a focus on policy surveillance, during a two-day intensive training at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Policy surveillance tracks public health laws and policies over time and across jurisdictions, using a rigorous scientific process to create data for evaluation and empirical research. The Institute will consist of two tracks, introductory and advanced. The introductory track is intended for participants who are interested in learning the steps of the policy surveillance process, while the advanced track is intended for participants who are already familiar with the steps of the policy surveillance process and would like to learn the techniques and tools needed to manage a policy surveillance project. Register now!

New E-Cigarette Dataset Available on LawAtlas.org: Explore the Regulatory Landscape!

Since their introduction to the United States market in 2006, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have quickly transformed from a novelty product into a widely used device for the delivery of nicotine and flavored vapors. In 2017, a nationally representative study found that 35.8% of high school seniors reported trying “vaping,” or using e-cigarettes, in comparison to the 26.6% who reported their use of traditional, combustible cigarettes. The study also found that 18.5% of eighth graders reported trying vaping. Youth acceptance of vaping has concerned public health advocates, who worry that the impacts of the successful campaign against tobacco could be reversed if vaping makes young people more likely to initiate smoking.

As of August 1, 2017, 49 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. federal law regulate e-cigarettes. The Center for Public Health Law Research has released a new dataset analyzing laws controlling electronic cigarettes now available on LawAtlas.org, the Policy Surveillance Program’s website dedicated to empirical legal datasets. This research reveals several important decisions that states make when regulating e-cigarettes.

First is whether e-cigarettes are regulated in the same way as traditional tobacco products. Incorporating e-cigarettes into the existing definition of “tobacco products,” is a common practice. As of August 1, 2017, 11 states and the District of Columbia consider e-cigarettes to be a tobacco product. Additionally, 12 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. federal law also regulate e-cigarettes similarly to traditional cigarettes by including the use of e-cigarettes in their definition of smoking. This often places e-cigarettes under the control of state clean indoor air acts, which restrict the use of e-cigarettes in the same areas where smoking traditional cigarettes is prohibited.

Another important legal distinction is whether e-cigarettes must contain nicotine. Eleven states and U.S. federal law require an e-cigarette to contain nicotine in order to be legally defined as an e-cigarette. Some e-cigarettes only deliver flavored vapor and do not deliver nicotine. Therefore, definitions of e-cigarettes that require nicotine content do not regulate e-cigarettes that only deliver flavoring. While flavorings may not contain addictive chemicals like nicotine, studies have shown that certain flavoring chemicals can produce harmful reactions in users’ lungs.

The dataset also captures requirements related to online purchasing and product packaging, including child-resistant packaging and nicotine concentration labeling requirements. Child-resistant packaging is important because the nicotine concentrations in the “e-liquids” vaporized by e-cigarettes are high enough to cause nicotine poisoning if ingested or even if touched. Further, online purchasing requirements are important because many e-cigarettes are purchased online and can be shipped to underage users illegally if website vendors are not scrupulous in their screening practices. As of August 1, 2017, 12 states require age verification by a third-party service for online purchases of e-cigarettes.

As medical and scientific researchers continue to publish studies on the potential public health impacts of e-cigarettes, the state regulatory landscape may evolve further. Although many studies conclude that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, their long-term effects are still unknown. To aid this research, the new policy surveillance Electronic Cigarette Laws data set serves as a resource for tracking the regulatory response of states as the consumption of e-cigarettes continues to expand.

New Study Finds That TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) Laws Are More Pervasive and Stringent Than Laws Regulating Other Office Interventions – Datasets and Mapping Tool Now Available on LawAtlas

Researchers from The University of California, San Francisco’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) and Temple University’s Policy Surveillance Program of the Center for Public Health Law Research (CPHLR) published a study yesterday in the American Journal of Public Health, comparing laws governing facilities that provide abortions with laws governing facilities that provide other office interventions (e.g., office-based surgeries and procedures). The study found that laws targeting abortion provision are more numerous, expansive, and burdensome than laws regulating facilities providing other medical interventions.

The study was based on empirical datasets analyzing Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) Laws and Office-Based Surgery (OBS) Laws, all now available on LawAtlas.org, the Policy Surveillance Program’s website dedicated to empirical legal datasets. The study of TRAP laws is comprised of three individual datasets: Abortion Facility Licensing (AFL) Requirements, Ambulatory Surgical Center (ASC) Requirements, and Hospitalization Requirements (HR). Detailed descriptions of the TRAP datasets are below.

These three datasets complement a dataset analyzing Office-Based Surgery (OBS) Laws. This fourth dataset was included to study facility requirements imposed on abortion providers in comparison to other medical facilities.

Maps Outlining State Fair Housing Laws, State Landlord-Tenant Laws, and City Nuisance Property Laws are Now Available on LawAtlas

Three new datasets covering housing related laws were published today on LawAtlas.org, the Center for Public Health Research website dedicated to empirical legal datasets. The three datasets are:

Each dataset is publicly available. You can explore the data using the site’s mapping tool that allows you to explore the elements of the law across jurisdictions or download the data as an excel spreadsheet without any cost. Each dataset is accompanied by a codebook, a research protocol, and a summary report.

State Fair Housing Protections

The federal Fair Housing Act, passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, prohibits discrimination in housing-related transactions for individuals who are members of a protected class — these include race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. Forty-nine states and D.C. have adopted their own fair housing laws to expand upon these federal protections, such as prohibiting discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or source of income. These laws regulate which protected classes are included, the types of discriminatory actions that are prohibited, and when discrimination is exempt under the law.

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Civil Commitment and the Opioid Epidemic: A Call for Research

By Scott Burris, JD

There is a lot of interest in civil commitment these days, as a possible tool to fight two big health problems. As we continue to watch the rates of opioid-related deaths climb, and in the wake of an unfunded emergency declaration by President Trump, some policymakers are looking to involuntarily commit overdose survivors for drug treatment. On the gun violence side, experts like Jeffrey Swanson have argued for applying gun-access restrictions that now cover people subject to long-term civil commitment to those subjected to short-term civil commitment.

With those kinds of ideas in the air, it is important to recognize how little modern data we have on commitment and its effects. In a recent article in the Washington Post discussing commitment for opioid treatment, Michael Stein and Paul Christopher emphasize how little we know. I entirely agree on the need for more research, and offer a couple of things to help.

The first is the Policy Surveillance Program’s LawAtlas dataset that maps civil commitment laws across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. If we’re going to examine these laws and their impact, this is the place to start. We also put out the call to anyone interested in studying this to work with us not only to update this data through 2017, but also to make sure we’re mining these laws and their characteristics for the right information in these circumstances — Are we asking the right questions? Read More

Housing Equity Week in Review

Here’s the latest news from housing law and equity, for the week of November 6-10, 2017:

  • The Public Health Institute released a study that calculates the number of children with lead poisoning in the United States.
  • A new law in Seattle will prevent landlords from screening tenants based on their criminal history, via The Regulatory Review.
  • “It’s time to stop ignoring our crumbling housing code enforcement” — coverage of APHA2017 sessions on housing code enforcement, featuring CPHLR Director Scott Burris and the Five Essential Public Health Law Services Framework developed in collaboration with ChangeLab Solutions and the Network for Public Health Law, via Public Health Newswire.
  • San Jose has a new plan to get downtown landlords to clean up their vacant storefronts using a pilot program that would create a registry of vacant buildings and fine property owners who are neglecting their properties, via NextCity.
  • Civil rights groups are fighting the suspension of a HUD rule they say helps low-income families move to better neighborhoods, via CityLab.
  • Texans voted to loosen some of the tightest home lending restrictions in the country. via Governing.

Housing Equity Week in Review

An update from the world of housing law and equity, for the week of October 30-November 3, 2017

  • New viewpoint article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, from Megan Sandel, MD, MPH and Matthew Desmond, PhD, says investing in housing for health improves mission and margin.
  • An analysis from the Seattle Times asks, “Will allowing more housing types in some single-family zones make Seattle’s whitest neighborhoods more racially diverse?”
  • As sea levels rise, wealthy people can more easily afford to move to high ground, making gentrification worse, via Yale Climate Connections.
  • A new study finds a correlation between the number of patents a city produces and economic segregation within its limits, via the Atlantic.
  • Benjamin Somogyi argues in the Regulatory Review, to solve the next foreclosure crisis, look to Sacramento
  • New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., have approved funding to provide legal defense to low-income tenants at risk of eviction. A look at how free legal help could prevent evictions, via Huffington Post.

Housing Equity Week in Review

The week of Sept. 4-11, 2017 brought more housing-related news from the southeast in the wake of Harvey and Irma, and a few new resources. The latest in housing equity and the law, below:

  • Matthew Desmond writes a Housing State of the Union for the Stanford Center on Inequality and Poverty’s Pathways Magazine State of the Union issue. The report emphasizes the home-ownership racial gap, the relationship with the affordability crisis, and the reform that is needed for the mortgage interest tax deduction.
  • A report by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank on gentrification sheds light on the fact that gentrification is not a new phenomenon
  • The New York Times ran an op-ed on the impact of land use regulation on economic growth.
  • Paul Krugman of the New York Times writes about the need to find equilibrium between negative sprawl (such as in Houston) and NIMBYism (as experienced in San Francisco). He asks, “Why can’t we get cities right?”
  • Community Land Trust has a tool for community focused development.