SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Convenience retailers in San Francisco and other communities throughout the Bay Area are on edge as lawmakers are poised to vote on several ordinances—most focused on flavor bans and, more specifically, menthol-flavored cigarettes—over the next month, according to officials with the California Independent Oil Marketers Association (CIOMA).
The counties of Contra Costa and San Francisco, as well as the cities of Oakland, San Leandro and Los Gatos, Calif., have introduced several tobacco-related pieces of legislation,
There are quite a few proposed ordinances in the Bay Area that “include things like menthol bans, flavored-tobacco bans, vape-oil bans and some even ban 18- to 21-year-olds from working at a location that sells tobacco,” said Ryan Hanretty, executive director of CIOMA. “Each local government has a different, albeit similar, proposal to ban the sale of some tobacco products and other rules.”
Hanretty told CSP Daily News that there are also zoning restrictions included that will dictate where stores can be located.
Here’s a list of vote dates:
- Contra Costa Board of Supervisors votes on May 23.
- San Francisco Board of Supervisors votes as early as May 24.
- San Leandro City Council votes on June 5 (and possibly as early as May 22).
- Oakland City Council votes on June 6.
“As an immigrant and business owner, I am deeply concerned by this attack on convenience stores and retailers like me,” said Sanjiv Patel, a convenience-store owner in Oakland, Calif. “I am just a local, small-business owner trying to achieve the American dream here in California.”
“Convenience-store owners operate on slim margins and rely on high-volume foot traffic,” said retailer Dee Dhaliwal, owner of Dhaliwal & Associates, Pleasanton, Calif. “Tobacco-ban ordinances would force the closure of hundreds of locations throughout the Bay Area and put thousands of people out of work.”
Organizations that advocate for the local bans say the new restrictions would help prevent the sale of tobacco to minors. CIOMA officials said that's not so. California restricts the sale of tobacco products to persons under the age of 21 and imposes heavy fines on retailers that violate the law. To bolster their position, CIOMA officials point to a 2016 study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that said the vast majority of youth under the age of 17 obtain tobacco products from “social sources,” including older friends, adult siblings and parents.
“CIOMA members operate in accordance to the law and often stage their own internal sting operations to ensure that their employees are not selling tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21,” Hanretty said. “Local ordinances proposed in several Bay Area cities and counties aren’t about protecting youth from tobacco products. They are about scoring headlines and political points at the expense of family- and minority-owned businesses that serve their local communities.”