At a meeting at the end of October, the Santa Monica City Council unanimously voted to adopt an ordinance that will create a tobacco retailer licensing program in the city.
The main features of the ordinance are that it requires all sellers of tobacco products to have and display a special license, it prohibits tobacco product sales to minors and it provides for suspension of the license after the third violation within five years, said Adam Radinsky, head of Santa Monica’s Consumer Protection Unit.
Under the ordinance, a revoked licensee cannot re-apply for five years.
Also, the administration, enforcement and education of the program will be funded by the annual license fees.
The ordinance includes most of the features present in similar ordinances in other California cities and counties, Radinsky said.
City staff has consulted with the Finance and Police Departments about administration and enforcement of the ordinance, Radinsky said.
They recommend that the Finance Department oversee the administration of the program and the City Attorney’s Office oversee the enforcement of the program with the assistance of police for occasional undercover stings regarding underage sales of cigarettes, Radinsky said.
Several people spoke in support of the retail licensing program, including Monty Messex, deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Tobacco Control and Prevention Program.
“Strong tobacco retail licensing laws, I think similar to the one that’s been proposed by your city attorney, have proven to be effective in reducing youth access to tobacco products,” he said. “In Contra Costa County, the rate of legal tobacco sales to minors dropped from 37 percent to seven percent after the city adopted a retail licensing law. In the City of Pasadena, it dropped from 20 percent to five percent.
“Other California cities with strong tobacco retail regulations have also demonstrated a decrease in legal rates in tobacco sales. I applaud your leadership in protecting the health of Santa Monica’s youths and I look forward to working with you to safeguard future generations from this deadly addiction.”
The council asked Messex if he had any suggestions, as he had experience working with Los Angeles County.
“The one thing I would strongly urge the council to consider is to be sure that the cost of the license funds effective enforcement, administration and education, so be very careful in how you go about calculating your fee,” he said.
Alicia Lopez, chair of the Coalition for Tobacco Free Los Angeles County and program director for the Tobacco Prevention Program at Valley Community Clinic in North Hollywood, also voiced her support for the ordinance.
“I’d like to commend you on considering the adoption of a tobacco retail licensing program,” Lopez said. “The Coalition encourages policies of this nature because it will protect the youth from easy access to tobacco and a lifelong addiction.”
After the public hearing, Councilman Kevin McKeown said, “Judging from the public testimony […] nobody wants to see kids smoking, so I move the staff recommendation.”
The ordinance will go before City Council once more for a second reading — which is standard procedure — sometime this month.
The council then unanimously supported a resolution urging local pharmacies not to sell or promote tobacco products.
Councilman Bob Holbrook, who is a local pharmacist, noted that his pharmacy doesn’t sell tobacco products, and said he thought the resolution was “a good idea. I’m going to vote for this.”