Providence, R.I Gets Tougher on Tobacco

Citing that the health and wellness of the Providence, Rhode Island’s children comes before the “economic interests of the tobacco industry,” Providence Mayor Angel Taveras signed two ordinances which would prevent the sale of fruit- and candy-flavored tobacco products, and tobacco products using flavoring concepts such as “spicy, arctic, ice, cool, warm, hot, mellow, fresh and breeze.”

The second ordinance prohibits retailers from accepting or redeeming coupons for tobacco products that allows the products to be purchased at less than the listed or non-discounted price.  This bans retailers from selling discounted multi-packs of tobacco products, such as two-for-one offers, or from consumers obtaining tobacco products for free.   Cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products, dissolvable tobacco products, and electronic cigarette cartridges are included in the coupon and discount ordinance.   The ordinances take effect March 1.

In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration banned flavored cigarettes, but the ban did not extend to other flavored tobacco products such as cigars, cigarillos and dissolvable products.   This ordinance also covers a broader range of flavored tobaccos such as pipe tobacco, bidis, smokeless tobacco, and flavored cartridges for electronic cigarettes.  By signing these ordinances, the Mayor and City Council hope to reduce youth smoking rates within their city, and help stop youth from starting a dangerous and addictive habit.  According to a statement by the mayor’s office, low-income youth in Providence have a higher rate of smoking then those in other parts of Rhode Island.

Flavored tobacco is especially popular with youth because the flavorings, such as strawberry, blueberry, chocolate and peach, mask the initial harshness of smoking.  Cigars and cigarillos are usually sold individually or in packs of two, making them more affordable for younger smokers.

There are exceptions to the ordinance.  Products that have an aroma or taste of tobacco, and those with menthol, mint or wintergreen flavors are not included in the ban.  Since the FDA has already banned flavored cigarettes, they are not part of this ban.   And smoking bars are allowed to sell flavored tobacco products provided those products are consumed on-site and more 50% of the bar’s total yearly revenue is made up of tobacco sales.

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