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Rhode Island

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.

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

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.

Recent Updates

  • 6/5/17 – Barrington becomes the second city in the state to pass a Tobacco 21 law (effective 9/5/2017)

  • 2/15/2017 – Central Falls becomes the first city in the state to pass a Tobacco 21 law

  • 2/2/2017Senator Joshua Miller introduces Senate Bill 232. The bill would require a license to sell all vapor products and paraphernalia; referred to Senate Judiciary Committee

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Rhode Island In The News

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For More Information, Please Contact:

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

Other Helpful Resources:

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.

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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