Providence’s Tobacco Ordinances: Historic ruling upholds city’s ban on coupons and discounts

*Note: Bloomberg BNA Law Week article reproduced with permission from The United States Law Week, 82 USLW 512 (Oct. 8, 2013). Copyright 2013 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033)

In an opinion issued on Sept. 30, 2013, the First Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s ruling and upheld the legality of two of Providence, R.I.’s city tobacco control ordinances which prohibit coupons and multi-pack discounts on tobacco products. The case was National Association of Tobacco Outlets v. City of Providence.

Motley Rice was involved, pro bono, in this case through an amicus brief supporting the city’s ordinances on behalf of several public health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics-RI Chapters.

“Finally the local government’s real public interest in reducing teen smoking through restrictions on manner of cigarette promotion has survived rigorous judicial scrutiny and federal preemption,” stated Motley Rice attorney Don Migliori in a Bloomberg BNA Law Week article. “The real winners are teens who never started smoking and teens who quit before they get addicted.”

The two ordinances, designed to and aimed at reducing tobacco use among youth, were adopted by the City of Providence in January 2012. One of the ordinances bans the sale of flavored tobacco products (other than cigarettes) and the other ordinance prohibited retailers from using coupons and certain multi-pack discounts to lower the price of tobacco products.

While the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, along with major tobacco manufacturers challenged the ordinances, the First Circuit found that they do not implicate the First Amendment and that they are preempted by either the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (FCLAA) or the federal Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Tobacco Control Act).

Read the full opinion here.