Local Tobacco Legislative Action

City actions consider cigarette tax and advertising ban

Thomas A. Briant, NATO Executive Director

NATO has been monitoring local tobacco-related ordinances being considered by cities, and assisting its members in responding to them.

This past week, the Danville, Va., City Council removed from a proposed 2012 budget a provision to implement a $3.00 per carton cigarette tax. With Danville located close to the North Carolina border, and neighboring Virginia cities not assessing any cigarette tax, local retail stores in Danville would have experienced a significant negative impact from a $3.00 per carton increase in the price of cigarettes. NATO communicated with the city council members, [image-nocss] and assisted local NATO members to oppose the cigarette tax proposal.

In another local action, the Worcester, Mass., City Council adopted an ordinance that bans (1) the sale of blunt wraps; (2) the sale of tobacco products at retail stores located on the property of an educational institution; (3) the sale of tobacco products in retail stores with pharmacies and drug stores; and (4) advertisements of tobacco products that can be viewed from the street, a park or the property of a school.

The ordinance does allow retail stores with 80% of gross sales receipts from the sale of tobacco products to advertise tobacco products, provided that the advertisement does not include a brand name, logo, trademark, trade name or corporate indicia of any cigarette product, producer or distributor.

This ordinance was adopted despite NATO sending city council members a detailed letter notifying them that the adoption of an advertising ban would violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and be contrary to federal court decisions, including a U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning a statewide Massachusetts outdoor tobacco advertising ban law. The ordinance is scheduled to take effect on June 24, 2011.