First Circuit Court affirms Providence anti-tobacco laws

IN WHAT THE CITY has called
IN WHAT THE CITY has called "an important victory," the First Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a December 2012 ruling affirming the validity of Providence's anti-tobacco laws banning the sale of tobacco products aimed at children, Mayor Angel Taveras' office announced Monday. / COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

PROVIDENCE – In a decision handed down Monday, the First Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the validity of Providence’s anti-tobacco laws, Mayor Angel Taveras’ office announced.

The ruling upholds the December 2012 decision of Rhode Island U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mary Lisi, finding no legal basis on which to invalidate the tobacco sales ordinances.

“This court decision is another clear and decisive victory in our efforts to keep children from using and becoming addicted to tobacco,” said Taveras in a release. “This is an important step toward a healthier city. I hope today’s ruling inspires other communities to follow our lead and take a stand against Big Tobacco.”

In 2012, Taveras and the Providence City Council passed two ordinances preventing the sale of fruit- and candy-flavored, non-cigarette tobacco products and banning tobacco pricing and promotional strategies aimed at children. In adopting the ordinances, the City Council cited economics and public health experts whose research concluded that such promotional strategies lead to higher rates of tobacco use among young people.

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Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned flavored cigarettes in 2009, non-cigarette flavored tobacco products, such as cigars, cigarillos and dissolvable products, in flavors like strawberry, peach, chocolate and blueberry are popular with youth because of their “sweet taste and cheap price tag,” according to a release from the mayor’s office.

The tobacco industry sued the city to prevent the laws from taking effect, contending that the ordinances violated federal and state law, but Monday’s First Circuit Court found no such violation in its study of the case.

The Rhode Island Department of Health, the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium and more than 20 local and national community-based and public health organizations filed amicus briefs in support of the city’s anti-tobacco ordinances.

“The court’s decision is a big win for Providence,” said Michael Solomon, City Council president. “We have been working hard to protect our children from the dangerous, addictive habit of tobacco use, and today’s ruling upholding our anti-tobacco ordinances will help us build a healthier, stronger and safer city for our children.”

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