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Judge says Ohio law banning cities from regulating tobacco sales is unconstitutional

By Ehren Wynder
Over 20 Ohio cities joined a lawsuit against a state law prohibiting them from enforcing their own regulations on the sale of flavored tobacco. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Over 20 Ohio cities joined a lawsuit against a state law prohibiting them from enforcing their own regulations on the sale of flavored tobacco. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

May 18 (UPI) -- An Ohio judge on Friday ruled against a state law banning cities from making their own laws regulating the sale flavored tobacco.

Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Mark Serrott's declared the law unconstitutional after heading arguments from attorneys for the state and the city of Columbus.

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Under the law, Ohio cities would be prohibited from enacting their own regulations on the sale of tobacco products.

Columbus had previously voted for a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco, and Cincinnati leaders are considering a similar ordinance. State Republicans have opposed municipal bans arguing they would hurt store owners.

Several other cities enacted bans on sales of flavored tobacco products before the state Legislature passed a law nullifying the cities' authority.

Gov. Mike DeWine attempted to veto the bill twice, but the law passed regardless.

Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein and 20 other cities filed a lawsuit challenging the law in April.

The ban was set to go into effect on April 23, but Serrott issued a temporary injunction blocking it.

Serrott's decision on Friday only affects cities included in the lawsuit and is not a statewide injunction.

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Athens, Barberton, Bexley, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dublin, Gahanna, Grandview Heights, Heath, Hilliard, Kent, North Ridgeville, Oberlin, Oxford, Reynoldsburg, Springfield, Upper Arlington, Toledo, Whitehall and Worthington all are listed in the lawsuit.

The state indicated it will appeal the decision to the 10th District Court of Appeals.

"I applaud the court's decision siding with cities to declare this law unconstitutional, a decision that upholds home rule and keeps in effect local laws that have worked for decades to improve public health and curb tobacco usage, especially among teens," Klein said in a statement after Serrott passed his judgement.

"While we know this may not be the end of this fight, this decision is a significant win for both the city of Columbus and for the health and safety of children and families."

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