§ 11-9-13.3. Legislative intent Purpose.
The use of tobacco by Rhode Island children is a health and substance abuse problem of the utmost severity. The legislature finds that tobacco product usage by children in Rhode Island is rampant and increasing with over thirty percent (30%) of high school students smoking. The present law prohibiting the sale of tobacco to children is being ignored by many retailers. Rhode Island tobacco retailers illegally sell four million eight hundred thousand (4,800,000) packs, over eleven million dollars ($11,000,000) in tobacco product sales, to children annually. Tobacco industry advertising targets children as the replacement smokers for the one thousand one hundred forty-five (1,145) adults who die daily from tobacco product usage. Approximately seventy percent (70%) of the Rhode Island high school seniors who are smoking today will be the addicted adult smokers of tomorrow. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking-related direct medical costs in Rhode Island in 1990 climbed to one hundred eighty-six million dollars ($186,000,000). This is an ongoing, escalating financial burden borne by every business, large and small, and every person, smoker and nonsmoker, in Rhode Island. This is a health and economic drain created by each new generation of children who begin using tobacco products and become addicted to nicotine. It is the intent of this legislation to preserve and protect the health of children by: (1) stopping the illegal sale of tobacco to children, and (2) by severely punishing those who disregard the laws relating to the illegal sale of tobacco products to children.
(P.L. 1996, ch. 321, § 1.)