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Although no court has yet addressed tobacco related land use regulations, using local land use regulation to advance public health policy is likely a valid exercise of a local government’s police power. Given that tobacco products produce a significant negative impact on the health and welfare of a community and also are associated with illegal behavior, it is reasonable—and certainly should meet the very low legal bar of being “rational”—for local governments to use their land use authority to regulate the location, density, and even type of tobacco retailers.
One way in which land use regulations play an important role in tobacco control is in the area of youth access. A local government’s land use authority includes licensing and zoning laws, which by controlling the location, density or number of retailers, can benefit public health by lowering the rate of youth initiation and thus have an important impact on youth access.
This section contains background information and resources on local land use regulation as a tobacco control measure. It covers the topics of licensing and zoning, and how these types of regulations can be used as tools by local governments.