Alabama Targets Tobacco Vending Machines

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Alabama Targets Tobacco Vending Machines

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The Birmingham City Council is considering a measure to restrict tobacco vending machines in the city. Councilman Bert Miller, sponsor of the measure, said he is concerned about the access young people have to cigarettes in the machines.

"Our young kids have too much access to that poison," Miller told The Birmingham (Ala.) News. "When they go in public places, there is access."

Butch DiChiara, president of City Wholesale in Birmingham, said outlawing tobacco vending machines is a non-issue.

"It seems like the council has a lot more important things to deal with," said DiChiara, whose company is a wholesaler of tobacco products to convenience stores and supermarkets throughout Alabama. "The industry as a whole has begun to voluntarily withdraw them except where there are people 21 years of age and older. The underage kids who want to get tobacco products have an easier time getting them over the Internet."

If the council approves the ordinance, tobacco vending machines will be banned from any business or retail store where minors are allowed. However, tobacco vending machines would not be prohibited in adult entertainment establishments, such as bars and nightclubs. But they would be prohibited everywhere else, according to the ordinance.

The number of cigarette vending machines in Birmingham is hard to determine because the city doesn't count cigarette and tobacco machines separate from other vending machines, said Lois Brown in the Department of Revenue. A license for a vending machine costs $12 per machine per year.

Miller said he believes he has six votes on the council to get the measure passed. Montgomery said he would not comment on the issue until he thoroughly reviews the ordinance.