City introduces tobacco regulations

Laws targets flavored and discounted tobacco to decrease use among Providence youth

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Two city ordinances banning the sale of flavored tobacco products and eliminating discounts on tobacco products went into effect in Providence Jan. 3.

Mayor Angel Taveras logged a strong victory over tobacco companies last month when U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mary Lisi ruled in the city’s favor in a lawsuit filed by the National Association of Tobacco Outlets.

It was a “major victory in the fight to ban the sale of tobacco products that are aimed at our children,” Taveras wrote in a letter to city residents. These laws are an “important step in reducing youth tobacco usage to make for a healthier, stronger city,” he wrote.

The first ordinance bans the sale of non-cigarette flavored tobacco products, which the law defines as “those infused with fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, herbs, spices or dessert flavors,” according to a press release from the Taveras administration. The second law bans vendors from accepting and issuing coupons or vouchers that would result in tobacco sales below retail prices.

Nearly 25 percent of the city’s public school children use tobacco products by the time they are seniors in high school and 23,000 Rhode Island children under the age of 18 are at risk of premature death resulting from a smoking-related illness, Taveras wrote.

“Fruit flavored products tend to be geared towards children and … look like candy,” said Michael Solomon, city council president.

Tobacco vendors who violate these new regulations will be “subject to a fine of $250 for a first offense, $350 for a second offense and $500 for a third offense by the Providence Board of Licenses,” according to the press release.

“I hope that Monday’s ruling inspires other communities to follow our lead and take a stand against Big Tobacco,” Taveras wrote.

Maine and New York City are the only other localities that currently maintain bans on flavored tobacco products. California, Hawaii, Minnesota, Utah and Wisconsin have passed some restrictions on the availability of discounted tobacco products, according to the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium.

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