Calif. Town Could Require Retail Cigarette License

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Calif. Town Could Require Retail Cigarette License

08/21/2003
NEW YORK -- Retailers in San Luis Obispo, Calif. may have to get a license to sell cigarettes if city officials approve a new ordinance aimed at stopping tobacco sales to youths, according to SanLuisObispo.com.

City Council members on Tuesday night voted 4-1 to give preliminary approval to the ordinance, which includes a $255 annual licensing fee, according to the report.

Vice Mayor Christine Mulholland voted against it, saying the fee is too high and would punish the 46 retailers that sell tobacco legally.

"I think it's very important that we keep children away from cigarettes," she said. "But I think it is penalizing legitimate business owners that are selling a legitimate product."

But proponents of the ordinance said it would make business owners think twice before helping city youths to light up. It would also help to cover the costs of administering and enforcing the licensing program, the report said.

The law sets up a program that enables police to conduct stings four times a year, Lowell said. Retailers that sell tobacco to minors could face suspension or revocation of their tobacco license.

Other California cities, including Los Angeles and Berkeley, have adopted similar ordinances. The fees in some cities range from $50 to $380. San Luis Obispo decided to impose a fee of more than $200 to recoup all costs, he said, according to SanLuisObispo.com.

The ordinance will not completely eliminate tobacco sales to minors, but it will make a dent in the city's illegal sales rate, said Lloyd Henning, health educator program coordinator for the county's Tobacco Control Program.

More than half of the retailers involved in a sting last November sold tobacco to a teenage girl, he said.

It is not intended to negatively target businesses but to help them take more seriously the training of their clerks and make them comply with the youth-access tobacco laws that are out there right now, Henning said, according to SanLuisObispo.com.

Some tobacco retailers disagree. Law enforcement should be doing more to stop youths from smoking, not businesses from selling, said Richard Ferris, owner of Cheap Thrills and Recycled Records.

The public can comment on the proposed ordinance at the City Council's second reading in September.