The Local Tobacco Regulatory Landscape


From cigarette vending machine bans to flavor prohibition

By Thomas A. Briant, NATO Executive Director

MINNEAPOLIS — The local regulatory movement against tobacco products began some 26 years ago in 1989 when the city council of White Bear Lake, Minn., became the first city in the country to ban the sale of cigarettes through vending machines. As the local regulatory effort spread across the country and more cigarette vending machines ended up either in dumps or as collector items in basement rec rooms, the focus switched in the mid-1990’s to restrictions on self-service displays, especially in retail stores that allowed minors to be present. These kind of restrictions fall into a broad category of how tobacco products are displayed or sold.


In addition, an increasing number of local laws set minimum package sizes for cigars as well as minimum prices per cigar. Going beyond the minimum pricing requirements, some local governments have been considering and enacting a sales ban on flavored tobacco products. These flavor bans usually do not include a ban on menthol cigarettes, since the FDA banned the sale of flavored cigarettes except those containing menthol. However, most cities or counties that consider a flavor ban focus on fruit and candy flavored products while exempting menthol, mint and wintergreen flavors. These flavor bans can be applied to cigars, smokeless tobacco, pipe tobacco, e-cigarettes and vapor products.

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