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Rhode Island’s two U.S. Senators, Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse are pushing to increase the national smoking age to 21. The two lawmakers joined other Congressmen introducing the legislation Wednesday.

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Portsmouth is considering a no-smoking ordinance that could make all of Aquidneck Island’s public beaches and parks smoke free. The town council voted Monday to draft the ordinance, which could be approved as early as September.

Neighboring Newport and Middletown already have similar bans in place.

Portsmouth Town Administrator Richard Rainor says he’s not sure what penalty the ordinance might carry, but he believes it will still be effective.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the trend in smoking traditional cigarettes among teens is down. That's great news on many levels. But as traditional cigarette smoking has declined, the use of electronic cigarettes has tripled over the past few years.

Wondering whether to worry? Or even what the heck an e-cigarette actually is? I've been combing the latest research to help answer those questions.

County Health Rankings 2015 / Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has released its annual County Health Rankings, and Rhode Island's counties (Providence in particular) seem to be faring worse than the national average on a few measures, and much better on a few, too.

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Lawmakers will consider legislation today that would up the legal age to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products. Rhode Islanders can currently start buying cigarettes at age 18. 

The new legislation would bar people under the age of 21 from buying cigarettes, or any other tobacco related products.  That includes cigars, chewing tobacco, and the increasingly popular e-cigarettes.

The House Committee on health, education and welfare is taking up the bill.

Lifespan, one of Rhode Island's largest employers, is implementing a new policy that will make employees who use tobacco products pay a surcharge.

The policy will tack on an extra $600 a year to the medical benefits of any employee or spouse or domestic partner covered by company insurance who uses tobacco products. That includes cigarettes, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes.

Lifespan will also offer employees free smoking cessation programs.

Lifespan’s CEO says it’s a way to encourage employees to quit.   

Providence Considers Smoking Ban For Public Parks

Jul 10, 2014
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Some smokers say they wouldn't oppose a proposed ordinance that would ban smoking in all Providence public parks.  The ban would make it illegal to use any form of tobacco in city parks and playgrounds, with a $50 fine for violators.

City council president and mayoral candidate Michael Solomon says the primary goal is to reduce children's exposure to tobacco.  Cumberland resident Zach Judge, says he's only 18 but has been smoking for 2 years; he thinks the ban makes sense.

It depends on what you define as progress, or on what you define as an acceptable risk.

Every two years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts out results from its latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey, or YRBS. Teens are surveyed about all kinds of risky and healthy behaviors, from how likely they are to wear a bike helmet to whether or not they've eaten fruits or vegetables in the past week, as well as the usual suspects like smoking and unprotected sex.

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Can we slack off on prevention efforts now? Not if we want to prevent the estimated 1,750 tobacco-related deaths every year, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health. And that doesn't take into account the number of years lives are shortened by exposure to second-hand smoke.

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The Department of Health has a new report out on how many Rhode Islanders smoke. While the number of adult smokers has declined, nearly one in five Rhode Islanders still smokes.

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A new study from public health researchers praises Providence’s efforts to curb tobacco use. The researchers say other cities should follow suit in banning certain tobacco retail practices.

The City of Providence said it hopes more municipalities follow its lead and pass ordinances that curb the sale of flavored tobacco products. The First Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a pair of ordinances banning the sale of flavored tobacco products and some store discounts.

The ban went into effect last January. Peter Asen, director of Providence’s Healthy Communities Office, said it likely contributed to results of a new study showing low rates of smoking in 6th 8th and 12th graders

Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurers will be able to charge smokers up to 50% more than non-smokers for health insurance. Fair or not, a Politico article points out how difficult that policy might be to enforce - and not simply because smokers could lie. For instance:

(PROVIDENCE, RI) Rhode Island’s scores are mixed on a new report card from the American Lung Association.   The grades are based on the state’s efforts to control and prevent tobacco use.