San Diego

Lemon Grove Seeks to Toughen Up Tobacco Sale Regulations

The Lemon Grove City Council is considering an ordinance that will bring additional regulations on tobacco retailers

Lemon Grove is getting tough on tobacco sales in an effort to protect children.

City Councilmembers Tuesday night discussed the details of a Tobacco Retail Licensing Ordinance that would give them more enforcement power at the city level to try and make sure stores don’t sell tobacco to people under 21.

“We need to get it under control here," said Dana Stevens, the head of the Community Action Service Advocacy (CASA).

CASA’s undercover data collection over the past three years found more than 30 percent of tobacco retailers in Lemon Grove illegally sold tobacco products to people under 21.

Some didn't even ask for identification as required by law.

“If we can just keep people from selling tobacco to kids we can offer those kids a better future,” Stevens said.

Under the new ordinance, any retailer selling tobacco must have a valid Tobacco Retailer License. The yearly fee for the license would be $250, according to early discussions.

Part of the money would be used to fund the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s store inspections. Stores already pay a license fee to the state, which also has an enforcement arm.

Revenue will also be used to educate retailers about the dangers of underage smoking.

“This allows that rigorous and consistent compliance monitoring to occur at the local level,” Stevens said of the ordinance.

"At least they will be visited once a year on that compliance monitoring and that's more than typically occurs in a community," she added.

In a statement, the California Fuels and Convenience Alliance which represents around 300 gas stations across the state noted businesses would be "severely affected" by the ordinance. The statement also noted the industry already complies with changing federal and state law, while conducting internal sting operations and building successful prevention policies such as the WeCard Program

Stores will start paying the fee in December 2019 if the ordinance passes.

The council is proposing suspending or revoking a store’s license if three violations happen within three years. Discounts are also being considered for sores that don’t commit violations.

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