Fewer Stores Are Selling Tobacco in Philly, But It's Still a Smoker's City

Despite the progress, challenges remain

Philadelphia health leaders are cheering the results of a new study that shows a drop in the number of tobacco retailers in the city.

The study by the American Journal for Public Health shows that tobacco license regulations passed at the tail end of 2016 have resulted in 659 fewer licensed tobacco retailers and a 20% drop in tobacco retailer density, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced in a news release.

In a statement, Dr. Hanna Lawman – Director of Research and Evaluation for the health department’s Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention – said, “This is impressive and incredibly important for Philadelphia’s health, especially for low-income neighborhoods that are disproportionately affected from tobacco being everywhere.”

The set of regulations, detailed by the department of public health, includes a cap of one tobacco permit per 1,000 people for each of the city’s 18 districts, smoke-free school zones banning tobacco retailers within 500 feet of school properties, hiking the price of tobacco licenses from $50 to $300 and revoking permission to sell tobacco to those who repeatedly sell to underage people.

But despite the progress, the city’s department of public health cites continued challenges, such as Philadelphia having the highest levels of smoking among the 10 largest cities in the U.S. Each year, tobacco kills over 3,500 Philadelphians, more than guns and opioids combined, the department notes.

Last year, an annual Synar report of Pennsylvania’s youth tobacco sales also noted that sales to underage youths in Philadelphia more than doubled in 2018.

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