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Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Rhode Island. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association calls for the following actions to be taken by Rhode Island's elected officials:

  1. Raise the minimum age of sale for tobacco products from 18 to 21;
  2. Increase funding to the Rhode Island Department of Health's tobacco control program; and
  3. Increase the number of local ordinances that license and/or limit the sale or use of tobacco products.
The 2018 Rhode Island legislative session included the passage of legislation that adds ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery systems) devices to the Rhode Island Public Health and Workplace Safety Act that prohibits smoking in most public places and workplaces statewide. Unfortunately, the legislation also included a provision that allows for bars/lounges where e-cigarettes can be used indoors if they meet a certain threshold of e-cigarette sales. During the legislative consideration of this measure, the American Lung Association in Rhode Island and other public health and governmental organizations expressed concerns with this provision. However, the provision was retained and the bill became law taking effect on January 1, 2019.

Other tobacco-related bills that were introduced, but not passed included: adding sales and use taxes to ENDS products and little cigars and raising the minimum age of sale for tobacco products from 18 to 21.

On the local level, there were numerous victories. Cranston, East Greenwich and Pawtucket strengthened their existing outdoor smokefree ordinances by including ENDS products. Woonsocket and West Warwick enacted restrictions on product placement. West Warwick also strengthened their local tobacco retail ordinance by substantially increasing their annual tobacco licensing fee. But Rhode Island also saw our fair share of challenges which the Lung Association and other partners aided in. There were several proposed rollbacks to pre-existing tobacco ordinances in Central Falls that were successfully defended. This included enforcement of their tobacco retail license as well as their flavored tobacco ordinance. Barrington is fighting a lawsuit to defend being able to locally raise the minimum tobacco sales age to 21. Johnston and Middletown are also fighting lawsuits to continue enforcing local tobacco licensing.

On January 1, 2018, state legislation that added ENDS devices to the Smoke-Free Schools Laws took effect. With a strong partnership and funding from CVS Health, Tobacco Free Rhode Island (a grant administered through the Lung Association) printed and distributed updated outdoor signage to every public, private and charter, elementary, middle and high school in Rhode Island.

The American Lung Association in Rhode Island will build on positive hearings in 2018 and support legislation that raises the age of sale for tobacco products to 21; increases funding for the state's tobacco control program; and strengthens local tobacco control regulations. Strong public support exists for these measures, which the Lung Association will seek to publicize and leverage with legislators and policy makers

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