Sep. 30 2013
WASHINGTON, DC – In a win for kids and public health, a federal appeals court today upheld sensible restrictions adopted by the City of Providence, Rhode Island, that prohibit tobacco companies from using flavored products and price discounts to attract kids.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit unanimously affirmed a U.S. District Court ruling from December 2012. The appeals court upheld Providence ordinances that:
• prohibit the sale of flavored cigars, smokeless and other non-cigarette tobacco products except in certain adult facilities (flavored cigarettes are banned by federal law); and
• prohibit the use of coupons and multi-pack discounts (e.g., “buy-two-get-one-free”) that make tobacco products cheaper and more appealing to kids.
Providence became one of the first cities in the nation to adopt such measures when the City Council passed them in February 2012.
The appeals panel agreed with U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mary Lisi’s “thorough and well-reasoned opinion” that Providence’s restrictions are reasonable regulations of the sales of tobacco products and serve the city’s legitimate goal of reducing smoking and other tobacco use, especially among kids. Like Judge Lisi, the appeals court rejected arguments by tobacco companies, including Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard, that the ordinances violated their First Amendment rights and are also preempted by federal and state law.
We applaud Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and the City Council for taking bold action to stop tobacco companies from preying on kids – and for standing strong against the industry’s legal attacks on the city’s laws. Mayor Taveras said that he hopes today’s ruling “inspires other communities to follow our lead and take a stand against Big Tobacco.” We couldn’t agree more.
The Providence ordinances crack down on two tactics – sweet flavors and price discounts – used by tobacco companies to lure kids. Tobacco companies have long used candy and fruit flavorings to tempt kids and mask the harshness of tobacco products for new users. The 2009 federal law granting the Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products banned candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes, but the FDA has not extended this restriction to other tobacco products. Tobacco companies responded by introducing a barrage of new flavored cigars and smokeless tobacco products.
The Providence ordinance prohibits the sale of all other flavored tobacco products, including cigars, little cigars and smokeless tobacco, except in certain adult facilities.
Tobacco companies also know that kids are the most price-sensitive consumers and that reducing the price of cigarettes and other tobacco products makes them more affordable and appealing to kids. That is one reason why they spend billions of dollars each year on price discounts. By prohibiting the use of coupons and multi-pack discounts, Providence will increase the price of tobacco products and reduce youth tobacco use.
Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing nearly $100 billion in health care bills each year. We applaud the City of Providence for taking innovative action to protect children from these deadly products.