Providence, R.I., Bans Flavored Tobacco Products and Discounts

New ordinance to take effect March 1

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- On January 5, 2012, the Providence, R.I., city council passed two ordinances that ban most flavored tobacco products and prohibit the redemption of tobacco product coupons and the sale of multi-packs of tobacco products with discounted prices. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras signed the two ordinances into law on January 9th, and both ordinances take effect on March 1, 2012. Copies of these two ordinances accompany this article.

Flavored Tobacco Ban

The ordinance bans the sale of tobacco products that have a characterizing flavor with a distinguishable taste or aroma of any fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, herb or spice and such "concepts as spicy, arctic, ice, cool, warm, hot, mellow, fresh and breeze." The tobacco products covered by this ban include, but are not limited to, cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco, dipping tobacco, bidis, snus, dissolvable tobacco products and electronic cigarette cartridges.

There are three exceptions under the terms of the ordinance. First, tobacco products with a characterizing flavor that have the taste or aroma of tobacco, menthol, mint or wintergreen are not banned under the ordinance. Second, cigarettes are not included in the definition of "tobacco products," but the FDA law has already banned flavored cigarettes. Third, the ordinance allows flavored tobacco products to be sold to consumers in a "smoking bar," which is defined under Rhode Island law as an establishment where business is primarily devoted to the serving of tobacco products for consumption on the premises, the annual revenues generated by tobacco sales are greater than 50% of the smoking bar's total yearly revenue and the serving of food or alcohol is only incidental to the consumption of tobacco products.

The ordinance sets up a series of fines on retailers that violate the law, with a $250 fine on the first violation, a $350 fine on the second violation and a $500 fine on the third or subsequent violation. The Providence Board of Licenses may also suspend or revoke a retailer's license to sell tobacco products. Please click here for the ordinance on flavored tobacco.

Coupon and Discount Ordinance

The second ordinance prohibits any retailer that holds a retail tobacco license from accepting or redeeming any coupon that allows a consumer to obtain tobacco products free of charge, or for less than the listed or non-discounted price. In addition, the ordinance prohibits the sale of tobacco products to consumers through any multi-packs with a discounted price, such as a "buy two, get one free" offer, and prohibits providing consumers any tobacco products without charge or for less than the listed or non-discounted price in exchange for the purchase of any other tobacco product. In this ordinance, tobacco products are defined as including cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco, dipping tobacco, orbs, sticks, dissolvable tobacco products and electronic cigarette cartridges.

The ordinance defines "listed or non-discounted price" as the higher of either the price listed for a tobacco product on its package, or the price listed on any related shelving, posting, advertising or display where the tobacco product is sold, plus all applicable taxes if not already included in the stated price and before the application of any discounts or coupons. A "coupon" is defined as any card, paper, note, form, statement, ticket or other item distributed for commercial or promotional purposes to be later surrendered by the bearer to receive an article, service or accommodation without charge or at a discounted price. Please click here for the ordinance on coupons and discounts.

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