The Philadelphia Board of Health voted last week to restrict the number of tobacco retail outlets allowed in the city to 1 per 1000 people in each planning district. This will reduce the density of tobacco retailers, which is linked to high rates of both youth and adult tobacco use, as well as higher rates of tobacco use initiation among youth. The count of people will be based on the commuter-adjusted-daytime population, so the reduction of retailers will occur primarily in residential areas rather than in the city center, where there are more people during the day. The policy will also reduce disparities in retailer density across neighborhoods. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that currently some neighborhoods in North Philadelphia have as many as three tobacco retailers for every 1000 persons.
In addition, the policy will prohibit tobacco retailers from locating within 500 ft of schools – which research has recently shown can reduce or eliminate disparities in density. The law grandfathers in retailers currently operating within this buffer zone, but does not allow them to transfer their licenses.
The annual fee for a tobacco retailer license will increase from $50 to $300. The funds from these fees go towards enforcement efforts. The new regulations also institute a standardized penalty for a retailer selling tobacco to minors: after the third offense in two years, the retailer will have their tobacco license suspended for a year by order of the Department of Public Health.
The ban on tobacco retailer near schools will take effect January 1, 2017, and the density cap will take effect February 15, 2017. View the text of the ordinance here.
Learn more about the tobacco retailer landscape in Philadelphia through this multi-media exploration, “By Deadly Design: The Tobacco Industry in Your Neighborhood.”
Learn more about how licensing can serve as a tool for reducing retailer density.