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Council Considering Ordinance To Raise Allowable Age To Buy Tobacco To 21

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Youth under 21 years old will still be able to smoke or chew tobacco in Healdsburg but they won't be able to buy their cigarettes and chewing tobacco in the city.

The City Council on Nov. 3 is scheduled to approve a final reading of an ordinance prohibiting sales of tobacco products to those under 21. The ordinance would take effect 30 days later.

It's legal in California to sell tobacco products to youth 18 and older.

When Dr David Anderson asked the City Council a year ago to consider passing more restrictive rules about tobacco products, the council asked the city attorney to find out if any California cities prohibited tobacco products and e-cigarettes to those under 21.

In April, the city council passed an ordinance prohibiting e-cigarette smoking in public places and places of employment and established a moratorium on e-cigarette lounges and vapor bars.

The City Council then voted 4-1 to direct staff to draft an ordinance requiring a retail license to sell tobacco products and increasing the age to legally buy them.

The licensing process and an annual inspection of the retail business is estimated to cost $450 per business. The costs might be fully recovered by establishing a tobacco retailer license fee, the City Manager's Office said.

The first reading of the ordinance passed 4-1 on Monday.

Councilman Gary Plass voted against the ordinance, stating the city would incur legal expenses if the ordinance is challenged by retailers who claim it puts them at an economic disadvantage. Plass said the $450 licensing fee is a tax.

City Manager Marjie Pettus said state law permits cities and counties to enact local tobacco retail licensing ordinances and 100 California cities have done so.

Plass also said the city should have gotten feedback from the 19-20 retailers in the city, especially mom and pop stores, that will affected by the age hike.

"They are already complying with state and federal laws," Plass said.

The ordinance also prohibits any business with a pharmacy, namely Safeway and Rite-Aid in Healdsburg, from selling tobacco products.

"My question is where does it stop? They both sell alcohol," Plass said.
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