Board of Health Approves Restrictions on Philly’s Tobacco Retailers

The board's new set of regulations attempts to keep tobacco out of the hands of children and lessen its presence in low-income communities.

Photo: iStock/Robert Herhold

Photo: iStock/Robert Herhold

The Philadelphia Board of Health yesterday approved a set of regulations geared toward discouraging tobacco use in low-income neighborhoods. The board is attempting to constrict the reach of Philly’s tobacco retailers, with new regulations allowing only one tobacco retailer for every 1,000 residents by planning district.

The regulations are largely aimed at preventing children from taking up smoking. On average, K-12 schools in Philadelphia had roughly one tobacco store within 500 feet of the building and roughly five stores with 1,000 feet, according to a 2010 census from the health department. Tobacco retailers will no longer be able to establish themselves within 500 feet of K-12 schools; this location restriction will not affect existing retailers who renew their permit and follow the law.

The board also decided that retailers who are cited three times within two years will not be allowed to sell tobacco for a year. Local year-round sales investigations reveal that one in five tobacco retailers in the city sell cigarettes illegally to youth, according to the health department.

A report published by the health department in June claims that smoking is the leading underlying cause of death in Philadelphia, with more than 2,000 estimated deaths per year attributed to smoking. In 2015, about 48 percent of tobacco retailers were located in low-income zip codes in the city, while 33 percent were located in mixed income zip codes and 19 percent were located in high-income zip codes.

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