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Cleveland to consider ban on sale of menthol and flavored tobacco products

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Posted at 2:32 PM, Feb 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-03 19:17:10-05

CLEVELAND — On Monday night, Cleveland City leaders are expected to hear a proposal which would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products within the city limits.

Dr. David Margolius, the City of Cleveland's director of public health, told News 5 Cleveland leads the nation with a smoking rate of 35% among adults (national average is 12.5%), and the city has an average life expectancy anywhere from 10-20 years shorter compared to neighboring communities.

The proposed policy would include the following:

  • Tobacco Retail License: An annual registration process for businesses looking to sell tobacco products and be subject to inspection from environmental health experts with the city once a year. Margolius estimates this would impact about 400 businesses across the city.
  • Restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and flavored vaping products.

The City of Columbus just passed a similar bill, which is set to go into effect in 2024. New York, New Jersey, California and Canada already passed similar laws as well.

"In the past, cities have looked at just banning flavored vaping products and that increased the smoking rates so the latest public health practice is to restrict all flavored products including menthol cigarettes," Margolius said.

The proposal comes about a month after Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed a bill that would have banned cities like Cleveland from regulating smoking, vaping and other e-cigarette usage and sales.

RELATED: DeWine vetoes bill that would have stopped cities from banning flavored tobacco

"When a local community wants to make the decision to ban these flavors to protect their children, we should applaud those decisions," DeWine said on Jan. 5.

Margolius said under the proposed legislation, it would not be illegal to possess a menthol cigarette if it was purchased outside Cleveland; it would instead just restrict what could be sold in the city.

"Stores like CVS stopped selling cigarettes altogether, and they're doing fine," Margolius said. "We are really optimistic that we're not putting anybody out of business and at the same time we can make people healthier."

Margolius told News 5 he expects the proposal to be heard by Cleveland City Council's Health Committee around April, with a goal of instituting the policy by the end of the year.

"For too long we've let it slide in our community, and now we're ready to take it on," he said.

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