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Recent updates! – Tobacco 21 Progress – Rhode Island Statewide Bill Tracker
In recent years Representative Teresa Tanzi and fellow sponsors introduced Tobacco 21 bills as support in the local public health community grew. 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.
Rhode Island currently has a below average 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 300 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 19.2% of the CDC recommended amount on tobacco prevention, but does impose $4.25 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.