San Francisco to Cut City's Tobacco Permits in Half

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San Francisco to Cut City's Tobacco Permits in Half


SAN FRANCISCO — Finding places to buy tobacco products in the city is about to get a little harder.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the Tobacco Sales Reduction Act on Dec. 9, capping the number of tobacco-selling permits at 45 for each of the 11 supervisor districts in the city, according to The San Francisco Examiner.

The legislation, introduced by Supervisor Eric Mar, doesn't eliminate existing permits. Instead, through attrition, it is estimated that it will take 10 to 15 years to halve the nearly 1,000 tobacco permits in existence today.

"This is the most comprehensive tobacco controls on tobacco licenses of any city in this country," Mar said. "It really is about protecting kids and schools and vulnerable communities from smoking and targeting and marketing by Big Tobacco."

The sales reduction effort is focused on health equity, due to having higher concentrations of tobacco-selling businesses in lower-income areas such as the Tenderloin compared to more affluent neighborhoods. 

According to 2011 permit data from the nonprofit Youth Leadership Institute, there were 270 permits in District 6, which includes the Tenderloin and South of Market, and 147 in District 3, which has Chinatown and North Beach. The District 7's Inner Sunset had a low of 37 permits, followed by 45 in District's 8 Twin Peaks.

This initiative builds on San Francisco's longstanding movement to reduce smoking, such as by expanding areas where people cannot smoke, the newspaper reported.

The permit restrictions apply to electronic cigarettes as well, The Examiner noted.

Mar previously passed a law requiring a tobacco permit to sell e-cigarettes. That legislation also imposes new restrictions for when the city issues new permits to sell tobacco. Under the ordinance, no tobacco-selling business can operate within 500 feet of another one or a school. Also taking effect is an outright ban on shops in which more than 50 percent of their business is dedicated to tobacco products and paraphernalia.