City cracks down on sale of ‘loosie’ cigarettes


The mayor of Providence on Wednesday signed a new measure aimed a cracking down on youth smoking and the retailers who feed the habit.

“Every day I see kids smoking before school and in front of the school. I find it heartbreaking to see the middle school students. It’s like they depend on it,” said Classical High School student Fabiola Noel during a signing ceremony at the John Brown Settlement House.

Despite state laws, city leaders say children are still getting their hands on cigarettes in Providence.

The ordinance requires all tobacco vendors in Providence to get a city license. It also reiterates a ban on selling single cigarettes, called “loosies.”

“It’s a gateway for young people to be able to start smoking,” City Council member Seth Yurdin said.

Yurdin, who pushed the plan, says loosies are a cheap way for kids to buy smokes and that a lot of stores are all too willing to supply them.

“I think that the data that’s been talked about is that 25 percent of the stores in Providence at some time or other are selling loosie cigarettes. So, it’s a significant problem,” Yurdin said.

The problem was featured in an NBC 10 hidden camera story. A city store was selling loosies, and a uniformed police officer hanging out in the store was sometimes behind the counter while it was going on.

The officer was suspended a day as a result. The mayor said he didn’t know about it.

“I have full confidence in my public safety commissioner, and I believe you just said he was suspended. I think it’s important that actions have consequences,” Mayor Angel Taveras said.

The new measure requires police to check out all 300 tobacco vendors in the city twice a year at a time when the mayor says dozens of cops will be cut from the force.

“We will focus on making sure that this is enforced, and we’ll do whatever we need to do to make sure that we can stop children from smoking,” Taveras said.

The ordinance calls for fines and loss of license as punishment for breaking the rules. Those who created the plan say the fines are meant to pay for police enforcement. 

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