In our “2013 POS Trends to Watch” article, Counter Tobacco highlighted that tobacco control advocates should watch for the trend of local governments regulating the sale of flavored tobacco products. Over the last few months, local news outlets have reported on cities exploring progressive point-of-sale (POS) tobacco control policies centered around e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products. Chicago, Illinois, Canton, Massachusetts and Vero Beach, Florida are a few of the latest cities to consider addressing tobacco POS issues through policy however, their efforts have been met with opposition from the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO).
Here’s a recap of recent NATO actions:
The Chicago Board of Health has held 2 of 4 town hall meetings this month in order to collect public input on flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. Information gathered at these meetings will be used to inform the Chicago Board of Health’s policy recommendations which will be submitted to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago City Council Committee on Health and Environmental Protection. Policy recommendations will focus on curbing the use of flavored tobacco products, particularly among youth. In response, NATO filed comments with the Chicago Board of Health citing several concerns around regulating flavored tobacco products including financial implications for retailers and the potential creation of a cigarette black market in Chicago.
The next two town hall meetings will be held on September 17th and September 19, 2013.
For more on this story see these articles from NATO and CSPNET.
On August 12, 2013, the Canton, Massachusetts Board of Health held a hearing to discuss tobacco regulation that would ban the sale of e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products (e.g. snus, nicotine lozenges/tablets) as well as increase the minimum age to purchase tobacco products. The proposed ban on e-cigarettes was removed from the ordinance, however the age to purchase tobacco products has been raised from 18 to 21 in Canton. In addition, the Board of Health approved the ban on snus and non-medicinal nicotine products. In response, NATO sent a letter to the Canton Town Council requesting its help in directing the Canton Board of Health to repeal the ban.
Read more on this story from CSPNET here.
Vero Beach, Florida
In August, Vero Beach, Florida was considering a local ordinance to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products (except menthol). NATO and other organizations submitted comments prior to the meeting scheduled to discuss the ordinance. At the council meeting, discussion of the legislation was postponed indefinitely and council members concluded that the city and local law enforcement should partner more closely to prevent the sale of tobacco products to youth.
More on this story from CSPNET found here.
Preparing for Opposition
The tobacco industry and its partners are aware that local policy change, even in small towns and rural areas, has the potential to start a chain reaction of policy changes at the city and state levels. In NATO’s 2012 Recap, NATO boasted that its “NATO Local Project” responded to over 50 local tobacco control-focused ordinances and due to its involvement, 66% of these ordinances either were not passed or were watered down. CSPNET indicated that during the first half of 2013, NATO has already responded to 60 local tobacco control-focused ordinances across the nation. Since the use of other tobacco products like cigars and loose tobacco has risen between 2000 and 2011 , it is not suprising that NATO and other tobacco industry partners are plotting to undermine local POS regulations.
When engaging in local policy change, it is important to anticipate and prepare for both local and industry opposition. Here are a few points to consider when creating a strategy to pass POS legislation in your community:
- Secure a legal partner to develop a feasible policy strategy for your area.
- Be certain that you have a coalition support for any policy or environmental change.
- Do early homework to plan your policy efforts: use store assessments to know exactly what is happening in your community.
- Craft your argument so that your target audience clearly understands a) why tobacco POS marketing is an issue and b) the health impact of industry activities at the point of sale.
- Prepare counter arguments for common issues raised such as the financial implications of passing progressive point-of-sale policies.
- Consider partnering with a local youth group focused on tobacco control efforts in order to provide a more powerful vehicle for your message.
For more information about NATO and common arguments that it raises against POS policies, please read this article written by the Center for Tobacco Policy & Organizing.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Consumption of cigarettes and combustible tobacco—United States, 2000–2011.” MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 61 (2012): 565-569.