Proposed bill aims to dismantle anti-smoking regulations

Density of cigarette retailers higher in low-income neighborhoods

Pat Loeb
June 05, 2018 - 9:20 pm

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A City Council committee will hold hearings Wednesday on a bill that would dismantle Board of Health regulations aimed at preventing smoking among low-income youth. 

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health's Board of Health adopted the rules two years ago to reduce the number of stores selling cigarettes, especially in low-income neighborhoods where the density of cigarette retailers is 70 percent higher.

Philadelphia has twice as many cigarette retailers per capita as any other city, making teenagers far more likely to be lured to smoke, according to Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.

"The major way big tobacco markets cigarettes these days is point-of-sale marketing in stores, and it works," Farley said. "It gets more kids smoking and more kids addicted."

Farley said reducing that number is crucial to curbing smoking since most ads for cigarettes are in stores that sell them.

"The rules allow stores to continue to have the permits for as long as they want to, they just simply prevent new stores from opening up in those neighborhoods that have too many stores already," he explained. 

But Councilman Mark Squilla said it hurts a store's value.

"For a lot of these people, the sale of their business is their retirement. It's their pension. And to devalue that pension, it just didn't seem like it was fair after everything else we're doing to small businesses with a lot of the tax increases," he said.

Squilla is one of six sponsors of the bill to rescind the rules. He said City Council can take other steps to discourage smoking.

The hearing comes one day after a City Council committee voted to advance a bill prohibiting flavored tobacco sales as a way of reducing teen tobacco use.