Rhode Island

Recent updates! – Tobacco 21 Progress – Rhode Island Statewide Bill Tracker

6/5/17 – Barrington becomes the second city in the state to pass a Tobacco 21 law
2/15/2017 – Central Falls becomes the first city in the state to pass a Tobacco 21 law
2/2/2017 – Senator Joshua Miller introduces Senate Bill 232. The bill would require a license to sell all vapor products and paraphernalia; referred to Senate Judiciary Committee
2/22/2016 – 5 sponsors introduce House Bill 7737 which would raise the tobacco sales age to 21 in Rhode Island
2/11/2016 – 5 sponsors introduce Senate Bill 2410 which would raise the tobacco sales age to 21 in Rhode Island
2/5/2015 – Representative Teresa Tanzi introduces statewide Tobacco bill to House, House Bill 5225

In both 2015 and 2016 Representative Teresa Tanzi and fellow sponsors introduced Tobacco 21 bills as support in the local public health community grew. However, they saw little success during those sessions and have not filed similar legislation in 2017. Democratic Representative Tanzi has previously spoken out regarding the need for regulations for e-cigarettes and hookah products, and works persistently on health and environmental issues. Her introduction of a bill that would raise tobacco and nicotine products to 21 was a commendable effort, and one that should be continually pursued to protect the health and futures of Rhode Island’s youth.

Testimony given by Dr. Rob Crane of the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation

Rhode Island currently has one of the lowest rates of high school smoking in the country, and a near national average rate of adult smoking. However, an estimated 16,000 children now under the age of 18 will eventually die due to smoking, with 400 children becoming daily smokers each year. The result is an annual health care cost of $640 million that is directly caused by smoking, and additional $458.9 million in lost productivity. The state only spends 18.6% of the CDC recommended amount on tobacco prevention, but does impose $3.75 tax per pack of cigarettes, one of the highest in the country.

There is no preemption language present in state law keeping localities from raising the Minimum Legal Sales Age (MLSA) to 21. Local governments are free to enact ordinances to better protect their kids from addiction. It has been our experience that the most powerful incentive for the state legislature to act is the initiative of local citizens and governmental leaders. Statewide, California and Hawaii’s laws both began at the local level where powerful tobacco industry lobbyists have little sway. We encourage you to talk to your local city council person, county council member or board of health leader. Local champions have largely driven this movement in non-preempted states. Central Falls deserves praise as the first locality in the state to raise the tobacco sales age to 21 and better protect their community’s youth. Your voice is more influential than you think. Constituents are an impetus for change at the community and statewide levels. Garner interest around Tobacco 21 at the local and state level by communicating with your local legislators through phone calls, emails, and testimony at local government meetings.

For more information, you may contact:

Rob Crane, MD
Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation

Kevin O’Flaherty
Played a direct role in shaping NYC’s historic T21 legislation.
Director Northeastern Region
Tobacco Free Kids

or visit our sources:

Tobacco Free Kids Rhode Island: “The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll in the United States and around the world. Our vision: A future free of the death and disease caused by tobacco.”

American Lung Association State Report Card: “The ALA ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report tracks progress on key tobacco control policies at the state and federal levels, and assigns grades based on tobacco control laws and regulations in effect as of January 2, 2014.”

SLATI State Information Rhode Island: “SLATI (State Legislated Actions on Tobacco Issues) is an extensively researched and invaluable source of information on tobacco control laws and policy, and is the only up-to-date and comprehensive summary of state tobacco control laws.”

The Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation and the Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids support these four principles for Tobacco 21 ordinances:

1) Include all tobacco and nicotine products, specifically e-cigarettes. The only exceptions would be FDA recognized nicotine replacement products (gum, patch, etc.) intended for cessation.
2) Include significant enforcement provisions against illegal sales as research shows that consistent enforcement is of critical importance.
3) Not include any pre-emption against local authority in more stringent regulation of tobacco or other nicotine product sales, secondhand smoke, or e-cigarette vapor.
4) Ideally not include possession, usage, or purchase (PUP) penalties that result in criminal records, and instead place the onus on the purveyors of these addictive products

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