Gainesville OKs Tobacco Ban

GAINSVILLE, Fla. -- Convenience and grocery stores will no longer be able to display cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco or rolling papers within arms-reach of customers.

The Alachua County Commission yesterday unanimously approved an ordinance banning the "self-service merchandising" of tobacco products throughout the county. Cities within the county, including Gainesville, have been asked to adopt similar ordinances. About one-third of the state's 67 counties have already done so within the past three years, according to The Gainesville Sun.

The new rules could go into effect as early as the end of November. Retailers have 60 days from the time the ordinance is filed with the state, which is likely to be next week, to move tobacco products behind counters where only clerks can access them. The measure was brought to the County Commission's attention during the summer by local high school students involved in Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT).

SWAT's goal is to make it extremely difficult for young people to get their hands on tobacco products, despite marketing efforts such as the placement of chewing tobacco near candy that appears to target kids, particularly in convenience stores. Enforcement of the ordinance will be driven by complaints.

The Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce took no position on the ordinance because most of its members with retail stores selling tobacco said they had already voluntarily complied, the report said.