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Tackling Tobacco: January 2016 Legislative & Regulatory Roundup

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


Tallahassee — Florida State Rep. Richard Stark (D-District 104) is co-sponsoring a bill that would add a $1 surcharge to a pack of cigarettes. The bill, which is also sponsored by Reps. Daphne Campbell (D-District 108), Reggie Fullwood (D-District 13) and Hazel Rogers (D-District 35), was introduced on Jan. 12. If approved, the measure would go into effect July 1. Florida's cigarette excise tax is $1.34 a pack.


Chicago — Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced a reform package to curb tobacco use among high school students by regulating the price and quantity by which select tobacco products are sold, and by raising the minimum age to purchase both cigarettes and other smokeless products being marketed toward youth and young adults from 18 to 21. 

"Youth smoking is now at a record low in Chicago thanks to a series of reforms put in place to crack down on marketing tactics employed by big tobacco companies," Emanuel said. "These reforms introduced will help today's youth make healthy choices and refrain from the harmful effects of a tobacco habit." 

Pending approval by the Chicago City Council, the mayor's reform package include the following ordinances: 

1. Raise the tobacco purchase age to 21.

2. Set minimum prices and pack sizes for tobacco products. For instance, the ordinance would set a minimum price of $11.50 for a pack of cigarettes, $1.70 for a large cigar, and $4 for an ounce of smokeless tobacco. Little cigars would have to be sold at a minimum pack size of 20, and four per pack for big cigars (exempting expensive cigars). Free samples and discounts that put the price below the minimum would be banned.

3. Tax tobacco products beyond cigarettes. The proposal calls for the following taxes: 15 cents per little cigar, raising the price of a 20-pack from $5.79 to $8.79; 90 cents per cigar, raising the price of the average two-pack from $2.25 to $4.05; $6.60 per ounce of roll-your-own tobacco, raising the average price of a small pouch from $7.25 to $11.54; and $1.80 per ounce of smokeless tobacco, raising the price of the standard 1.2-ounce can from $4.19 to $6.35.


Boston — The Boston Public Health Commission voted to adopt new tobacco regulations that go into effect Feb. 15. One new regulation prohibits the sale of flavored tobacco products and nicotine delivery products (excluding tobacco, menthol, mint and wintergreen), except in adult-only retail tobacco stores and smoking bars. A second change increases the minimum legal age to 21 to purchase tobacco products, electronic cigarettes and vapor products.  

Wareham — The Wareham Board of Health unanimously voted Jan. 20 to raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21, effective April 1. The board also adopted a requirement for cessation signs; establishing a minimum package size and prices for cigars; prohibiting sales of tobacco products within 500 feet of any school; and banning all flavored tobacco products.

Board members as well voted to endorse a move to increase all fines for selling tobacco products illegally to $300. Currently, the board assesses a $100 fine for first offenses, $200 for second violations and $300 for all succeeding infractions (as well as suspension of permits to sell tobacco products for specified time periods, which remains in effect).


St. Paul — In an unanimous vote, the St. Paul City Council approved an ordinance that restricts the sale of flavored tobacco products to tobacco shops that are open to customers aged 18 and older. As a result, convenience stores will be prohibited from selling flavored tobacco products when the new rule goes into effect in roughly 60 days. The new ordinance also restricts the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes and vapor products to specialty shops that are open to customers 18 and older and derive at least 90 percent of their revenue from tobacco or e-cigarette sales.

St. Paul officials additionally set the minimum price for cigar packages to at least $2.60 per cigar for packages containing three or more cigars, or $10.40 for a package of four cigars.


Trenton — Gov. Chris Christie decided not to act on a bill that would have increased New Jersey's smoking age to 21, keeping the age to buy tobacco products at 19. The bill, which passed the state legislature, would have fined retailers up to $1,000 if they sold cigarettes or other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to consumers under age 21. Underage smokers would have gone unpunished.


Santa Fe — State legislators are considering a tax on electronic cigarettes, as well as tax increases on cigarettes and chewing tobacco. The proposed 66-percent tax on e-cigarettes would be the first of its kind in New Mexico. State Sen. Howie Morales (D-Silver City) introduced the proposal Jan. 13. Under his plan, the state levy on cigarettes would increase by $1, bringing it to $2.66. Taxes on other tobacco products would jump from 25 percent to 66 percent of initial sales. 


Charleston — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is proposing an across-the-board tax increase on tobacco products. The proposed increase is part of the governor's plan to close the state's budget deficit.

In his proposal, released Jan. 15, Tomblin outlines an increase in the tax on other tobacco products such as cigars from 7 percent to 12 percent of the wholesale price. He also proposes a 45-cent tax increase on cigarettes and a new 7.5-cent tax per milliliter on nicotine fluid.

According to the governor's office, the cigarette tax increase would provide $71.5 million annually to support health-related costs. 

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