Tobacco Sampling

Tobacco Sampling

A model ordinance and checklist

ChangeLab Solutions (formerly Public Health Law & Policy, which included the Technical Assistance Legal Center) developed this Model Tobacco Sampling Ordinance to help California cities and counties limit the free or low cost distribution of tobacco products, also known as “sampling.” An example would be when tobacco companies sponsor “bar nights” where they give away free samples of their products in bars

California law and the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) already prohibit the distribution of free tobacco samples in most public places—but there are exceptions for adult-only locations, like bars. Sampling also is permitted at private events that are open to the public, so long as it takes place in a separate area that minors can’t access or see inside (for instance, a tobacco company sampling tent at a rodeo or motor racing event).

Local governments can go further than state law and the MSA by completely banning tobacco sampling at bar nights and other locations, such as sororities and fraternities. However, it is probably not possible to legally ban all of the promotional tactics that take place during industry-sponsored events like bar nights. Some activities, such as conversations industry representatives might have with bar patrons, are protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Also, where cigarettes are concerned, the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (FCLAA) limits state and local laws regulating the advertising or promotion of cigarettes, presenting an added legal hurdle.

You can also download the Tobacco Sampling Model Ordinance Checklist below. This checklist can help you community select from a range of policy choices when designing a local ordinance regulating product sampling.