Springfield to resume tobacco sales enforcement after court ruling

Springfield will resume enforcing a local law regulating the sale of tobacco after a court ruling overturned a state law that prevented Ohio cities from making and enforcing their own tobacco regulations.

The ruling came after the Clark County Combined Health District expressed concerns about the inability to enforce the city’s law that requires tobacco seller to pay licensing fees, undergo annual inspections and display CCCHD signage, all of which would lead to a rise in youth smoking and vaping.

Springfield is one of several Ohio cities that has issued local ordinances designed to reduce access and use of tobacco and vape products by minors. The city requires retail vendors of such products to apply for a sales license and abide by regulations that prohibit the sales of such products to those under the age of 21. The local legislation was designed to discourage early use of tobacco that can lead to addiction and potential long-term health problems.

Ohio House Bill 513 was approved by state legislators, overriding a veto by Gov. Mike DeWine. The measure prohibits local governments from implementing acts limiting tobacco and vape sales, including banning flavored tobacco and nicotine products.

The state measure also challenged Ohio’s “home rule” provisions, which allows cities and villages to have a constitutional right to establish laws for their own municipalities for the good of their residents. Critics allege that the state legislature is increasingly stripping powers away from local governments.

In April, city and health district officials complained about the state legislature’s action and said it could lead to a rise in youth smoking and vaping

After the court ruling, Health Commissioner Chris Cook said in a statement it will give the city back a tool it should have.

“Data shows that kids are able to get tobacco, nicotine and vapes at an early age. We have way too many kids experimenting with these dangerous chemicals,” Cook said. “This ruling returns us to a tool that we should have locally — the ability to regulate the sale of tobacco and nicotine and enforce fines on those who sell to and prey on underage kids.”

The health department’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveys have shown that 30% of high schoolers and 16% of middle schoolers have tried some form of vape product, CCCHD communications coordinator Nate Smith said.

“100% of them are too young to buy these products,” Smith said.

According to a release from the city, Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Mark Serrott ruled the law unconstitutional. The state will have the opportunity to appeal the ruling.

Springfield Mayor Rob Rue said in the release the ruling is a step in the right direction.

“We are proud to partner with the CCCHD and other community stakeholders to curb the use of tobacco products among our youth,” Rue said “This ruling is a win for our community, for public health and for the future of our young citizens.”

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