Local Governments Continue to Seek Restrictions on Tobacco Products

Thomas A. Briant, NATO Executive Director

For the first nine months of this year, NATO has monitored and responded to almost 50 proposed local tobacco ordinances across the country.  These ordinances propose various restrictions which may include a requirement that cigars be sold in packages of four or more, retailers be prohibited from redeeming tobacco product coupons, the number of retailers selling tobacco in a given city or county be limited, pharmacies and drug stores be prohibited from selling tobacco products, the taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products be increased, and the advertisement of tobacco products be banned or significantly curtailed.

Several examples of local tobacco restrictions and taxation include the following:

The Dublin, Calif., City Council will meet on November 6 to consider two versions of a tobacco ordinance that would: (1) prohibit tobacco retailers from being located within either 500 or 1,000 feet of a school, playground, youth center, park, library, or city owned and operated recreational facility (with current retail stores grandfathered); (2) require tobacco-only stores to be located at least 1,000 feet from another tobacco-only store; (3) increase tobacco retailer license fees to $315 per store; (4) adopt new penalty provisions calling for tobacco license revocation for a first violation of the ordinance or fines starting at $1,000 for an ordinance violation; and (5) mandate minimum cigar package sizes.

On October 15, the Binghamton, N.Y., City Council held a work session and one council member proposed that the city adopt new zoning ordinances to control and limit tobacco advertisements in retail stores by regulating how close retail stores are allowed to be located near schools and other areas that children frequent.

The president of the Cook County, Ill., board proposed last week to increase the county’s cigarette tax by another $1 per pack.  If the proposed tax increase were to be enacted, the tax on a pack of cigarettes in Chicago, which is located in Cook County, would rise to $6.67 per pack ($3.00 Cook County cigarette tax, $1.98 Illinois cigarette tax, $1.01 federal cigarette tax and $.68 Chicago cigarette tax). 

These three proposals are just a sampling of the numerous local tobacco restrictions that have been proposed by cities and counties across the nation and which NATO monitors and opposes on behalf of tobacco retailers.