VALLEJO – The Vallejo City Council made plans on Tuesday to license tobacco retailers to clamp down on sales to youth.
The council directed city staff at its meeting Tuesday to draft a new ordinance after local youth with a coalition of tobacco control organizations urged the council to adopt a tobacco retail license to enforce state law preventing the sale of flavored tobacco and strengthen the city’s own tobacco sales regulations.
Youth advocates for the legislation said that e-cigarettes or "vapes" are the most popular among youth. “They look like a USB drive so they are easy to hide from parents,” said one of the presenters, who is a student at Vallejo High School. “If they taste like mango or strawberry we are going to want them but it’s evident that there is an addiction epidemic happening.”
Another presenter from the advocacy group LGBTQ Minus Tobacco said that although state law prohibiting sales of flavored tobacco went into effect in December, their coalition surveyed tobacco retailers in Vallejo and found that 17 out of the 25 stores they visited were still selling flavored tobacco products.
The groups stated that the tobacco industry targets lower income communities with coupons and pricing incentives and the products are often seen as a way to reduce anxiety, making marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ community particularly vulnerable to addiction. Culturally specific flavors such as “dulce de leche” are also used to target communities of color.
Jen Grand-Lejano, the Northern California government relations director at the American Cancer Society Action Network, asked that the council use the Public Health Law Center model as a template for drafting a licensing ordinance.
The model ordinance recommends several components for a comprehensive regulation, such as prohibiting the sales of all flavored tobacco products, establishing a minimum price with no discounting, minimum pack sizes for cigar products, prohibiting pharmacies from selling tobacco products, and limiting the density of tobacco retailers.
Grand-Lejano said that the ordinance should include a licensing fee for tobacco retailers to cover the cost of administration and enforcement and at least one annual compliance check per retailer with license suspensions and eventual license revocation for repeat offenders.
Joseph Hayden, a volunteer with Tobacco Free Solano, noted that 209 other jurisdictions in California have adopted similar licenses.
“I think it’s clear that the council desires to proceed on this,” Mayor Robert McConnell said. “Some additional direction would be to review each of the asks that are in this handout and actually go beyond that to the extent that we can create an ordinance that is even stronger.”
Staff estimated that they could bring a completed ordinance back to the council for consideration within two months.
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THE VALLEJO SUN NEWSLETTER
Investigative reporting, regular updates, events and more
- Vallejo City Council
- Vallejo City Hall
- LGBTQ Minus Tobacco
- Jen Grand-Lejano
- American Cancer Society
- Joseph Hayden
- Tobacco Free Solano
- Robert McConnell
Ryan Geller writes about transitions in food, health, housing, environment, and agriculture. He covers City Hall for the Vallejo Sun.
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