California May Ban Convenience-Store Tobacco Sales

Bill would limit retail licenses to tobacco shops

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California has moved closer to passing a measure that would ban tobacco sales at convenience stores, grocery stores and all non-age-verified retail locations. As reported by KCRA News, the bill (SB 1400) was introduced by Democratic Sen. Bob Wieckowski and passed the Senate floor last Thursday in a 21-16 vote.

Although electronic cigarettes are not currently mentioned in the bill, Wieckowski’s office said a recent law classifies e-cigs as tobacco products and therefore, the segment also would be subject to the new restrictions.

“This is a huge step forward in protecting California’s children because 90% of smokers start before they are age 18,” Wieckowski said in a statement.

Instead of outright banning tobacco sales at convenience stores and other retail locations, SB 1400 would redefine which operators are eligible for the required retail license to sell tobacco products. Under the new law, only businesses that generate more than 60% of gross revenue from tobacco and tobacco-related sales would be eligible—effectively limiting licenses to tobacco shops.

"It would be a huge hit for us," Sunil Tandel, owner of the Sacramento-based Fremont Market, told KCRA. “The whole convenience factor is out the door.”

Tandel pointed not just to lost tobacco sales, but also to the loss of additional purchases tobacco shoppers often make.

"Once you buy cigarettes, everyone will be like, 'Oh, I need a lighter; oh, let me grab some energy drinks or beef jerky, or a lotto ticket,’" said Tandel. "We'd take like a 25% hit just from cigarettes, and then … whatever else that goes with it.”

SB 1400 now moves to the California Assembly. If it passes, the restrictions would take effect in January 2019.

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