Tackling Tobacco: April 2016 Legislative & Regulatory Roundup


NATIONAL REPORT — Tobacco legislation and regulation is constantly under review at the local, state and federal levels. In this monthly roundup, Convenience Store News highlights the latest proposals and approved changes happening across the United States.


Sacramento — California's package of proposed tobacco regulations is finally heading to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. In early March, state legislators approved several measures aimed at tobacco, including raising the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21, and classifying electronic cigarettes, or vaping devices, as tobacco products subject to the same restrictions on who can purchase them and where they can be used.

The bills would also expand smoke-free areas to include bars, workplace breakrooms, small businesses, warehouses, hotel lobbies and meeting rooms. Smoking bans would apply at more schools, including charter schools, and counties would be able to raise their own cigarette taxes beyond the state levy of 87 cents per pack.

The legislation would take effect 90 days after the governor signs it.


Marion County — The Florida Department of Health in Marion Country launched a "smoke-free" campaign that will be featured at area gas stations. The ads, bought with a state grant and aimed at raising awareness of the health risks associated with smoking and information about how to quit, appear on the top of gas pumps at four high-traffic locations. The campaign is slated to run for roughly three months.

Osceola County — Osceola County commissioners approved rules limiting where adult consumers can use electronic cigarettes, to follow similar restrictions on combustible cigarettes.


Clarkston — Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry is reviewing a possible ban on e-cigarette smoking indoors. The ban would extend to all forms of smoking, including traditional cigarettes and hookahs.


Lansing — The Lansing Village Board voted in favor of a four-month moratorium on land use for tobacco alternative businesses, putting a hold on issuing licenses for any hookah, electronic cigarette or vape shops. The move will give the board time to explore how to regulate e-cigarette and vape-related businesses, including a review of how other municipalities regulate them.

Oak Park — Oak Park officials are reviewing an ordinance to increase the minimum age to buy tobacco products, and may also increase the required age to sell tobacco products. The Village Board of Trustees held a first reading of the ordinance to hike the legal buying age to 21. At that time, Trustee Glenn Brewer also questioned whether the legal age to sell tobacco products should remain 18. 


Portland — City officials are in the beginning stages of possibly raising the legal tobacco buying age to 21. The Health and Human Services Committee held a public hearing on the issue April 12 and voted to move it to the full City Council. If approved, Portland would be the first city in Maine to make such a move.


Boston — The Massachusetts Senate is expected to vote on a bill to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products across the state from 18 to 21. The vote is scheduled for April 28. The measure would allow individuals who turn 18 before Jan. 1, 2017 to keep buying tobacco products. Gov. Charlie Baker supports the move to increase the age to 21.


Waseca — The Waseca City Council approved Emergency Interim Ordinance No. 1043, establishing a six-month study period and moratorium on tobacco-related business and land uses in the city. The city charter allows the council to set an emergency interim ordinance without a public hearing. The move also allows the council to set the moratorium immediately without the 10-day period ordinances usually take to go into effect.


Helena — The Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services and its Montana Tobacco Use Program launched a public education campaign addressing the tobacco industry's point-of-sale advertising, particularly convenience stores and gas stations. According to Director Richard Opper, two TV ads highlight "the tactics used in stores by the tobacco industry, such as sweet flavors, candy-like packaging and strategic product placement." The public service announcements take aim at youth girls and youth boys.


Cleveland — A new city law setting 21 as the minimum age to buy tobacco products went into effect April 14. Retailers are required to ask for identification for anyone who appears to be under the age of 30. Violations of the law by retailers are a fourth-degree misdemeanor. The City Council approved the law in December.


Montpelier — On April 21, the state Senate approved a bill that limits the sale and use of electronic cigarettes by a vote of 24 to 5. A similar measure passed the state House of Representatives last month. The Senate bill bans the use of e-cigarettes indoors at workplaces and restaurants. It also requires stores to merchandise e-cigarettes in a locked box, but does not include a provision in the House version that prohibits the display on the sales counter.


Olympia — Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a state Senate bill that creates statewide regulation and enforcement of e-cigarette and vapor products. The bill, SB 6328:

  • Requires child-resistant packaging on e-cigarette and vapor products;
  • Requires the disclosure of the nicotine level and warning labels on all vapor product packaging;
  • Requires retailers to be licensed and to check identification at the point-of-sale;
  • Prohibits the sale of products from open display cases;
  • Regulates internet and distributor markets;
  • Provides enforcement and penalties for retailers who break the laws;
  • Increases tobacco retailer fees and fines;
  • Bans the use of vapor products in schools, school buses and 500 feet from schools;
  • Allows local bans in indoor spaces and most outdoor areas where children congregate; and
  • Allows the Department of Health and local health departments to act in public health emergencies in certain instances to analyze and seize products and shut down stores when human health is at risk.

SB 6328 was a bipartisan effort introduced by state Sen. Bruce Dammeier (R-25th District). It was developed in partnership with Washington retailers and people who use vapor products. 

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