Oakley leaders intend to require all tobacco retailers to obtain new city-issued licenses and follow other requirements aimed at curbing tobacco use by minors.
The changes, scheduled for final approval at the city council’s December meeting, would require the city’s estimated 17 tobacco retailers and all future establishments to adhere to stipulations, including that retail workers selling tobacco products must be at least 18; store employees must check the IDs of all tobacco purchasers who appear to be under age 27; and self-service tobacco displays are prohibited. These rules are in addition to all other local, state and federal laws regulating tobacco products, paraphernalia and retailing.
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors recently adopted tobacco-related regulations covering the county’s unincorporated areas, which prompted Oakley officials to explore their options.
“Typically, what we have found with studies is that when a fine is issued, it’s issued to the person who sold the products not the store owner necessarily,” said Oakley City Clerk Libby Vreonis, a paralegal in the city attorney’s office. “The ordinance would give a little more teeth to the enforcement action if there is a license involved.”
Under the proposed regulations, the number of citywide tobacco retailers would also be capped at 25, and future businesses would be prohibited from being located within 500 feet of existing tobacco retailers or 1,000 feet of youth-sensitive areas: parks, playgrounds, libraries, schools and bus stops servicing schools. The city’s five established retailers already inside that 1,000-foot buffer are exempt.
If approved, the city’s police department would enforce the regulations that include strict noncompliance penalties, including license revocation for rule violations.
Jen Grand, a Contra Costa senior health education specialist, said society needs to do everything it can to curb minors’ tobacco use.
“Ninety percent of adult smokers started before they were 18,” Grand said.
City staff proposed including other licensing regulations, including banning flavored tobacco product sales and instituting cigar and little cigar pack size sales restrictions, but the council opted to wait for an anticipated Food and Drug Administration (FDA) action on certain products before deciding how to proceed.
That ruling is expected to include bans on most flavored e-cigarette sales in retail stores and gas stations, Vreonis said.
Vice Mayor Claire Alaura, who spearheaded the discussion on new regulations after seeing a Contra Costa Health Services presentation on the county’s new restrictions, approves of not only the license requirement but also the tougher regulations the council opted to hold off on.
“I want (Oakley) to be a leader in this,” she said. “I brought it back here for the sole purpose of protecting our kids.”
Jamie Rojas, a National Association of Tobacco Outlets spokesperson, said Oakley tobacco retailers agree to the possible license requirement, but they don’t want to see the city impose bans on flavored tobacco.
“In Oakley, the retailers have passed the FDA annual compliance enforcement rate at 97 percent, meaning the FDA has found that Oakley retailers are not the problem for youth accessing tobacco products,” he said.
If the license requirement is approved, it’s expected that a license could be obtained by filling out an application. Licenses would need to be approved annually, along with yearly payment of a $300 to $400 fee to offset the city’s costs associated with the program.
The council is expected to finalize the license requirement at its Dec. 11 meeting, at 6:30 p.m., inside the Oakley City Council chambers.