Columbus bans sale of menthol cigarettes, other flavored tobacco

Columbus bans sale of menthol cigarettes, other flavored tobacco

The Columbus City Council unanimously approved a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products such as menthol cigarettes and e-cigarettes within the city starting Jan. 1, 2024, saying tobacco companies have long targeted black, LGBTQ+ and youth communities.

“The prevalence of tobacco use in our community is a public health crisis,” said city councilor Shayla Favor, who introduced the legislation.

Dr. Mysheika Roberts, Columbus health commissioner, said that when you remove flavored tobacco, you eliminate the very products that make it easier to start a lifelong addiction.

According to the legislation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 2 million US middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2021, with more than eight in 10 using flavored e-cigarettes, some that resemble cotton candy taste. , fruit, coffee and milk.

“The insidious nature of tobacco in our schools is uncontrollable,” said Favor.

City Council has a busy meeting to end the year

During a busy 4 ½-hour year-end meeting, the council also approved legislation to create an Office of Violence Prevention that will work to reduce gun violence, conduct research and talk to community members about ideas.

It also rezoned property along Harmon Avenue in Franklinton so the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County — the ADAMH board — could build a $59.9 million addiction and crisis center.

As for the flavored tobacco ban, the legislation does not include criminal penalties for users, but does impose civil penalties on sellers, Favor said.

Before Monday night’s council meeting, city council members and others talked about a new community tobacco effort to which the city is contributing $1 million.

Flavored tobacco called ‘a scourge in our communities’

Roberts called flavored tobacco “a scourge in our communities.” Furthermore, one in four Columbus adults smoke, and 39% of those smokers are black. And she said Columbus Public Health has seen an 8% increase in smoking rates for black adults in Franklin County.

Banning flavored tobacco is a matter of health, wellness and equity, Roberts said.

“We know we need to do more to help those already in the grip of addiction,” she said.

City Council President Shannon Hardin said he smokes menthol cigarettes and knows how hard it is to quit.

Favor, who chairs the council’s health and human services committee, said there will be a robust multimedia campaign with part of the effort specifically aimed at youth.

Flavored tobacco products and the Black community

Kenny Hampton, vice president of the African American Male Wellness Agency, said that smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the Black community.

“We are making a significant investment in the fight against tobacco addiction,” Hampton said.

Earlier this year, the Coalition to End Tobacco Targeting pushed for local legislation to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes, which companies have historically targeted the Black community.

The provisions of the new legislation do not apply to “shisha” type tobacco smoked in hookah bars.

Opposition and support for the ban

There were opponents who said this ban would hurt local businesses.

David Schwartz, executive director of the New York Wholesalers and Distributors Association, testified online that the ban on flavored tobacco in Columbus simply means illegal businesses will bring them in.

“You’re going to have a case and cases of menthol cigarettes in your jurisdiction,” Schwartz said.

“The discriminatory effect of a menthol ban, you discriminate against every small business that sells tobacco products,” he said. “You vote with emotion. You don’t vote with common sense.”

A South Linden resident said online that if the issue is about kids vaping in schools, “the city is not a parent.”

“Do you think banning something makes it go away?” she said.

Councilor Nick Bankston said he had heard from business owners who feared damage. But he said there are greater moral and economic costs, including health care costs.

Councilors said they would work with business owners over the next year to try to mitigate the effects.

Hardin said there were three small business meetings, two public hearings in the city council and a town hall for high school students to discuss the legislation.

Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in an emailed statement that the city council should be credited for standing up to the tobacco industry and taking steps to stop the industry’s “predatory targeting of children, black Americans and other communities with flavored tobacco products.”

The US Supreme Court on Monday decided not to stop California from enforcing its ban on the sale of most flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.

City Council creates an Office for Violence Prevention

The Office of Violence Prevention, created as part of other legislation passed Monday, was created more than two years ago by Franklin County’s former coroner, Dr. Anahi Ortiz, proposed because homicides and crimes have increased in Columbus, was included in Mayor Andrew J. Ginther’s 2023 budget proposal.

The office will coordinate anti-violence efforts, including data collection, research and collaboration with public and private partners to reduce gun violence through legislation.

The office will conduct a “violence reduction planning process,” with officials meeting with community leaders. The office will have an executive director, executive assistant, research and policy director, community relations coordinator, data manager and analyst, grant writer and other staff members.

Other US cities, such as Austin, Texas; Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Oakland, California; Philadelphia and San Francisco have similar offices. The office in Columbus will be Ohio’s first, said Rena Shak, in-house counsel and assistant policy director for the mayor’s office.

Other actions include rezoning for ADAMH facility

The City Council also rezoned three acres at 475 Harmon Ave in Franklinton for the new ADAMH facility, a drop-off site that will include 16 inpatient beds, a substance use treatment center, links to mental health and substance abuse services, a pharmacy, and a medical center for urgent care.

The city and Franklin County are each contributing $10 million to the project, which is currently slated to open in 2025. In January, officials said they were planning for a groundbreaking this past summer.

The council also rezoned 249 acres at 4001 Brice Road south of Shannon Road for 502 single-family homes, with 320 multi-family units and 94 twin single units (think duplex where each side has an owner). The developer is DR Horton – Indiana LLC, which has an office in Westerville.

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