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Philadelphia Health Department Declares War On Smoking

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Philadelphia Health Department is declaring war on smoking and wants to regulate stores that sell tobacco products in low-income communities which it says are disproportionately hurt by smoking.

Philadelphia's health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, says smoking is the number one killer in the city today.

He says smoking kills more Philadelphians than homicides, AIDS, car accidents, diabetes and illegal drugs combined.

Dr. Farley points out that the Kensington section of the city is one of the many neighborhoods hurt by high smoking rates.

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"Philadelphia has the highest smoking rate of any big city in the country," he said. "We have about twice as many stores that sell tobacco products as other big cities and those stores are concentrated in low-income neighborhoods like this."

In an effort to curb smoking the city's health department wants to limit the number of stores selling tobacco products in poor neighborhoods and also keep those stores 500 feet away from schools.

Dr. Farley pointed out a variety of stores in Kensington with colorful tobacco advertising close to several schools.

"The problem is young people get addicted when they're teenagers and they're addicted for life and so we want to prevent so many kids from getting addicted," he said.

Reverend Adan Mairena of the West Kensington Ministry feels the new regulations are needed because he says low-income people are more susceptible to smoking and tobacco advertising.

"To me it's a social justice issue," says Reverend Mairena. "It's an attack on low-income people in poor neighborhoods that's intentional by the tobacco industry."

CBS3 reached out to the National Association of Tobacco Outlets which is against the city's proposed regulations.

The organization says the proposed rules will hurt law-abiding retailers and stifle new economic development in more than three quarters of the city.

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Mayor Jim Kenney plans briefings to support the new regulations on October 12.

The health department plans to hold a hearings on the proposed new rules which they hope will take effect by the first of the year.

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