New Ohio State Law Regulating Flavored Tobacco on Hold in Some Cities

A judge in Franklin County has issued a temporary restraining order to stop a state law from going into effect next week. This law would prevent Columbus, several suburbs in Franklin County, Cincinnati, and other cities in Ohio from regulating tobacco products.

The ruling means that the local cities’ bans on selling flavored tobacco products will continue for now. It also suggests that Judge Mark Serrott of Franklin County Common Pleas Court believes the cities’ argument is likely to be successful. The judge, Serrott, set a date for the preliminary injunction hearing in the case. It will take place on May 17.

Columbus, Cincinnati, and other cities in Ohio have filed a lawsuit on Tuesday. They are challenging a law created by the Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly. The cities argue that the legislature violated an amendment in the Ohio Constitution. This amendment gives cities the power to set their own laws on certain matters, including public safety, for the benefit of their residents. The cities argue that the new Ohio law, which permits the sale of flavored tobacco, is harmful to the health of Ohioans. They are particularly concerned about the increasing number of teenagers who are turning to vaping.

After a 50-minute hearing on Friday in downtown Columbus, Serrott left the courtroom for about 30 minutes before coming back with a decision. He said that the state law that prevents local governments from regulating tobacco seems to be missing important parts. This law seems to violate the rights of cities in Ohio to make their own rules, known as “home rule,” especially when it comes to protecting the public.

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“The state law is essentially saying that it is taking away the municipalities’ power to regulate,” explained Serrott. He also mentioned that the Ohio Supreme Court has determined that “general laws” should dictate the behavior of citizens, not cities, which have specific regulatory rights according to the state constitution.

Serrott also mentioned that although one state law prevents municipalities from regulating tobacco, another law requires a plan to be made to decrease tobacco use among Ohioans. This code focuses on reducing tobacco use among specific groups such as young people, minority and regional populations, pregnant women, Medicaid recipients, and others who may be more affected by tobacco use.

Serrott granted the restraining order because he believes that the city’s argument against the state law being unconstitutional will probably be successful in the end. However, he also acknowledged that the state will probably appeal his final decision.

Serrott discovered that it would be harmful to not issue the restraining order. This is because it could lead to future health problems for young people who are targeted by tobacco distributors.

“I’m glad that he temporarily supported us,” said Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein as he left the courtroom. “This is a victory for children, which is the main focus here.” How can we prevent children from accessing flavored tobacco products and vaping? Klein said that the state had gone too far in trying to prevent local governments from protecting children.

“The original intention was simply to remove the cities from the business, not for the state to take over and implement a different approach.” “And that is the main issue with home rule,” Klein said. He added that the state law also prevented Columbus Public Health from checking if stores were selling tobacco to minors illegally.

Jonathan Secrest, a lawyer from the Dickinson Wright law firm in Columbus, is representing the state. He mentioned that the state law will be enforced throughout Ohio starting next week, except in the municipalities involved in the case.

In addition to Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, this also includes the suburban cities of Bexley, Dublin, Gahanna, Grandview Heights, Hilliard, Reynoldsburg, Upper Arlington, Whitehall, and Worthington in Franklin County, as reported by The Dispatch.

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