Local Tobacco Issues Continue to Accelerate

2014 on pace to top 200 proposed regulations

Thomas A. Briant, NATO Executive Director

Local tobacco regulations

MINNEAPOLIS -- In 2012, NATO established the NATO Local Project to track and respond to proposed local tobacco regulations. That year, NATO responded to some fifty ordinances. Then, in 2013, the number of local ordinances monitored more than doubled to 119. Earlier this year, NATO projected that 200 local tobacco restrictions would be proposed by cities and counties. However, during just the first three months of 2014, already 56 ordinances have been proposed which, if the current pace continues, would mean more than 200 local tobacco regulations will be introduced this year for consideration by town boards, city councils, and county governments.

For the first quarter of this year, the 16 states with local activity include Massachusetts (22 ordinances), California (13 ordinances), Florida (4 ordinances), Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Utah all with two ordinances, and one ordinance each in Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. This expansion of the number of states in which local governments are proposing tobacco restrictions demonstrates that this is a nationwide issue and will continue to expand in size and scope.

The kinds of tobacco restrictions being considered by these local governments include bans on redeeming tobacco product coupons, prohibitions on tobacco product promotional pricing, minimum cigar package size requirements, bans on the use of e-cigarettes in public places, restrictions on tobacco product advertising, outlawing the sale of flavored tobacco products, limits on the number of retail licenses issued to retailers to sell tobacco products, and increases in the legal age to buy tobacco products to either 19 or 21 years of age.

During the past three months, NATO has successfully opposed a number of ordinances, including a Stuart, Fla., proposal that would have required e-cigarette advertisements to be only black text on a white background; a Story County, Iowa, ordinance that would have banned all e-cigarette displays from the public view; a Scotts Valley, Calif., ordinance that would have banned all e-cigarette advertisements; a Lodi, Wis., ordinance that would have prohibited tobacco products from being advertised on poster type ads; and a tax on e-cigarettes proposed by Morton Grove, Ill.

Also, earlier this year, NATO and other industry members sued New York City to overturn the city’s coupon ban and prohibition on promotional pricing which was passed by the New York City Council late last year. A federal court hearing on a motion to strike down the New York City coupon ban and promotional price ban is scheduled for early May.

With the number of local tobacco restrictions continuing to double each year since 2012, the need to respond to these kinds of regulatory threats becomes even greater. Many times, the involvement of local retailers is a key part of opposing unnecessary restrictions on the sale of legal tobacco products. NATO will continue to monitor and respond to local tobacco restrictions that cities, towns and counties propose to enact.