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State lawmakers move to block city bans on flavored tobacco sales

The legislation, which passed early Thursday morning, prohibits cities from enacting local laws restricting certain tobacco sales.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio House and Senate passed a tobacco bill that includes a measure preventing cities like Columbus from prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products, such as menthol cigarettes and e-cigarettes.

The amendment to the state tobacco bad debt legislation reads: "The regulation of tobacco products and alternative nicotine products is a matter of general statewide concern that requires statewide regulation." 

It would prohibit municipalities from approving tobacco laws outside of current state laws.

"The tobacco industry terrifies me. It's an innovative industry creating products that taste like cotton candy, watermelon, and bubblegum," Amanda Turner, with the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, said. "Those are products that are out there to attract kids to attract my son who's 7-year-old who will look at them and ask about it, and want to try it."

"They're using this to hook kids for a lifetime of addiction and future health risks. So, we know that in Ohio today, there are 259,000 children alive who will die prematurely due to smoking related disease," said Leo Almeida with The American Cancer Society.

The Columbus City Council unanimously approved the ban on Monday. 

Those against a city-wide tobacco ban are concerned about the local economy, telling 10TV a ban will hurt small businesses, but it won't solve the overall problem.

"People are no longer going to drive just five minutes to go get the vape that they want. They're just going to drive 15 minutes to Worthington or Reynoldsburg instead of coming to a small business in Columbus," said Zoe Villalobos, owner of The Joint.

In a statement, Councilmember Shayla Favor, who introduced the legislation in Columbus, said: "On Monday, my colleagues and I unanimously passed legislation to ban the sale of flavored tobacco in the City of Columbus. We believe this was a necessary step to protect our community from decades of predatory targeting on our youth and minority communities. It is paramount for local governments to have the ability to make the changes necessary for the health and well-being of their community. This amendment is another overt exercise of state government to limit local governments authority in exercising due care over their residents. We urge the Statehouse to stand with millions of Ohioans and protect the next generation."

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