City of Providence Wins Court Victory Against 'Big Tobacco'
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City of Providence Wins Court Victory Against 'Big Tobacco'

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Judge upholds city laws banning sale of tobacco products aimed at children.

In a case with national significance, the City of Providence has won an important victory in its fight to protect children against the harmful effects of tobacco and the deceitful tactics of the tobacco industry. In a decision handed down yesterday, Rhode Island U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mary Lisi ruled against Big Tobacco's attempt to block Providence officials from enforcing the city's new anti-tobacco laws.

Earlier this year, Mayor Angel Taveras and the Providence City Council passed two ordinances banning the sale of tobacco products and store discounts aimed at children. The tobacco industry sued to prevent the laws from taking effect.

"Because of the hard work that Council President Michael Solomon, Majority Leader Seth Yurdin, the entire City Council and many others across our city have put in over the past two years, we won a clear and decisive victory in the effort to keep children from using and becoming addicted to tobacco," said Mayor Taveras. "I applaud Judge Lisi for her well-reasoned decision upholding our anti-tobacco ordinances, and I commend City Solicitor Jeffrey Padwa and his team for their strong and successful legal defense. While we expect an appeal from Big Tobacco, this is an important step toward a healthier city. I hope today's ruling inspires other communities to follow our lead and take a stand against Big Tobacco."

Providence's anti-tobacco laws prevent the sale of fruit- and candy-flavored, non-cigarette tobacco products and ban tobacco pricing and promotional strategies. The City Council adopted the ordinances and Mayor Taveras signed them into law based on research that shows strong public policy and careful oversight of tobacco helps to reduce youth smoking rates.

"Judge Lisi's decision is a big win for Providence. We have been working hard to protect our children from the dangerous, addictive habit of tobacco use, and yesterday's ruling upholding our anti-tobacco ordinances will help us build a healthier, stronger and safer city for our children," said City Council President Michael Solomon.

Tobacco use is a major public health threat to children in Providence. Nearly one in four Providence public school youth use tobacco by the time they are seniors in high school. Twenty three thousand Rhode Island children under 18 may die prematurely from a smoking-related illness.

Although the FDA banned flavored cigarettes in 2009, non-cigarette flavored tobacco products, such as cigars, cigarillos and dissolvable products, in flavors like strawberry, peach, chocolate and blueberry are increasingly popular with youth because of their sweet taste and cheap price tag.

"Today we celebrate yet another step forward in our work to protect our children and our community. We stand united against the tobacco industry's deceitful tactics and targeting of children as new consumers," said City Council Majority Leader Seth Yurdin.

The Rhode Island Department of Health and Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium and more than 20 local and national community-based and public health organizations filed amicus briefs in support of the city's anti-tobacco ordinances.

The city will determine how soon to begin enforcement of the laws after a full review of the court decision and intends to give sufficient warning to tobacco vendors before enforcement begins.

To read Judge Lisi's 45-page written decision, visit:

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