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Judge in Ohio Upholds Cities’ Tobacco Control Rights

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Ohio Judge Mark Serrott made history on Friday when he decided that local governments in the state will continue to have their own autonomy over tobacco laws.

This verdict gives local governments that were plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging a state-level preemption rule back control over tobacco-related restrictions, such as retail licensure and taste prohibitions.

According to Dustin Holfinger, the American Heart Association’s director of government affairs, “this is a major win for public health,” according to a press release. “This ruling begins the process to put power back in the hands of mayors and city councils rather than at the behest of the state legislature.”

The conflict started in late 2023 and early 2024 when the Ohio House and Senate overrode Governor Mike DeWine’s veto of a measure pertaining to tobacco preemption, requiring state legislators to make choices about tobacco control regulations. In response, a lawsuit was launched in April by 21 cities contesting the new law, including Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland.

Judge Serrott declared on Friday that the statute was unconstitutional under the state constitution. “We were not silenced and our commitment to protecting the health and wellbeing of all Ohioans prevailed,” Holfinger said. “Judge Serrott’s ruling sends a clear message to local lawmakers and community members: they know what’s best for their own communities.”

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