Feb 1, 2024 - News

Columbus to sue for right to ban flavored tobacco

A sign next to a grocery store cigarette case tells shoppers about a flavored tobacco ban effective Jan. 1, 2024.

A sign alerting Columbus grocery customers of a flavored tobacco sales ban effective Jan. 1. Photo: Tyler Buchanan/Axios

State lawmakers recently took a lighter to Columbus' ban on flavored tobacco products like fruity vapes and menthol cigarettes.

  • Now Columbus is headed to court to tell lawmakers they can stick that ban in their pipes and smoke it.

Why it matters: The flavored tobacco issue is part of an ongoing conflict over cities' rights to govern themselves.

Catch up quick: Columbus passed a flavored tobacco sales ban in 2022 to protect residents from "dangerous products and to reverse the impacts of generations of tobacco marketing focused on African Americans and children."

  • Gov. Mike DeWine later proposed a statewide ban.

Instead, legislators did the opposite — they passed a provision in last year's state budget to prohibit local regulation of tobacco products.

  • DeWine vetoed the provision, calling local tobacco bans essential to "interrupt the cycle of addiction."
  • Republican supermajorities responded by overriding that veto, arguing the restriction would not deter smokers from simply buying products in other communities.

State of play: Columbus' ban went into effect on Jan. 1, but it will be moot when the state preemption law goes into effect in April.

The latest: Columbus plans to file a lawsuit challenging the law before then, City Attorney Zach Klein's office tells Axios.

What they're saying: Klein believes cities have the right to make policy decisions in the interest of public health.

  • "We must defend the Ohio Constitution's home rule authority that's existed for more than 100 years so that cities like Columbus can continue to do what's best for the health and safety of residents who demand it," he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, other communities like Worthington, Bexley and Grandview Heights also have flavored tobacco bans and may similarly challenge the state's law, the Dispatch reports.

The big picture: City leaders across the country and political spectrum bemoan preemption laws as restricting local control.

What we're watching: Columbus continues to battle the state in court over the city's attempt to enforce gun control measures.


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