ABOVE PHOTO: Councilwoman Marian Tasco and Philadelphia Health Commissioner and Deputy Mayor Donald F. Schwartz look on as Mayor Michael Nutter symbolically signed Bill 100634 which increases the penalty for merchants who illegally sell tobacco to minors.
In an effort to reduce underage smoking, Councilwoman Marian Tasco introduced legislation on behalf of the Nutter Administration which increases the penalty for merchants who illegally sell tobacco to youth. The new bill provides Municipal Courts discretion to assess a minimum fine of $300 to a maximum of $2,000 for merchants who default on the original $250 fine. The penalty for repeat violations subjects retailers to either discontinue the sale of cigarettes all together and or temporarily cease operations. City officials hope the new measures will help to deter the practice said to attribute to Philadelphia’s top ranking fur underage smoking among large cities.
“It is unfortunate that some retailers value a dollar over the health and welfare of the children in our communities,” said Councilwoman Tasco. “I take very seriously the commitment to promote and foster healthy lifestyles for our City’s youth. Unfortunately, our children often see smoking as something that is cool and not for its harmful effects.”
Bill 100634, which was approved by a 15-0 City Council vote, requires merchants who violate the new City Ordinance to attend one-on-one information sessions that will provide tips on checking identification and how to refuse sales to minors. The Ordinance also provides the City authority to close a business for 48 hours if that merchant sells tobacco to a minor three times in two years. The City may assess on-the-spot penalties to violating merchants and will post the names of businesses that are cited for illegal tobacco sales to minors on the Department of Public Health’s website.
“This bill will expand the City’s work of helping Philadelphians improve their health and well-being,” said Mayor Nutter. “More than 300,000 adults smoke in Philadelphia and their habits influence many of our youth to adopt similar unhealthy habits. I hope Philadelphians will utilize the available resources so they can quit smoking and live a better quality of life.
“Kids who smoke become adults who smoke,” said Health Commissioner and Deputy Mayor Donald F. Schwartz. “The City will remain vigilant in preventing illegal sales of tobacco to youth who should have access to healthier consumption habits and opportunities.”
The City is taking on additional measures to encourage smokers to kick the habit in its entirety. On December 20, 2010, the City launched the “Last Pack” campaign on 17 local radio channels to provide information on support, counseling and other services that are available to help residents quit smoking. The City’s smoking cessation initiatives are part of the Get Healthy Philly campaign that encourages residents to stop using tobacco and adopt healthy eating habits. The Get Healthy Philly campaign is being funded with $25 million in Federal Recovery money, including $10.4 million for smoking cessation work.
On November 15th, the Department of Public Health launched its first ever nicotine patch giveaway via the PA Free Quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW). Over 3,300 Philadelphians have called for free counseling and a free one-month supply of nicotine patches. On January 1, 2011, the City will provide insurance coverage for smoking cessation medications to approximately 7,000 employees. After a Department of Public Health outreach effort, three out of five large-scale Medicaid Managed Care Organizations in Philadelphia have agreed to provide coverage for most of these medications.
Smoking causes 2,500 deaths in Philadelphia each year and results in more than $800 million in productivity losses. It’s estimated that one in three minors illegally purchase cigarettes in Philadelphia. Those who witness illegal tobacco sales to youth are asked to report it by calling 1-888-99-SMOKE or by logging on to www.smokefreephilly.org.