Frontline Blog

Working with community organizations, Columbus promotes health equity through tobacco control

September 2023

montage showing Columbus mayor's announcement of flavored tobacco restrictions, webinar speaker Edward Johnson, and Cities: The Future of Health logo

In a webinar with Big Cities Health Coalition, Edward Johnson (Assistant Health Commissioner for External Affairs) shared how Columbus Public Health collaborated with community organizations to pass flavored tobacco restrictions. In 2019, more than a quarter of Columbus adults identified as smokers. One in three Ohio high school students use e-cigarettes, which are driven by flavored tobacco. Four of the five leading causes of death are exacerbated by tobacco use in Columbus. In 2020, the city declared racism a public health crisis. To address health disparities, the city passed a flavored tobacco ban that included banning menthol and mint flavored tobacco products. This is especially relevant for Columbus as the city has 804 licensed tobacco retailers that are concentrated in socially vulnerable neighborhoods with large numbers of African Americans.

To implement the ban, Columbus Public Health (CPH) collaborated with over 130 health, education, community, and faith-based organizations to build the Coalition to End Tobacco Targeting (CETT). CETT focused on the decades-long predatory marketing of menthol cigarettes to the Black, LGBTQ+, and other minority populations and the push by the tobacco industry to market flavored cigars, hookahs, and e-cigarettes to teens. CPH conducted outreach and engagement with community members, and assisted in identifying community leaders who have authentic community connections and identifying organizers for specific demographics. However, there were challenges in implementing a flavored tobacco ban (see table below).

The final legislation added definitions of electronic smoking devices, flavored shisha tobacco product, flavored tobacco product, and hookah; exempted the retail sale of flavored shisha tobacco products; and banned the sale of the aforementioned in Columbus and becomes effective January 1, 2024.

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