San Juan Bautista City Council members on May 17 passed a motion to introduce an ordinance requiring licensing of tobacco retailers.
The ordinance, if adopted, would require businesses in San Juan Bautista to purchase an annual license allowing them to sell tobacco and it would also make it more difficult for minors get tobacco.
In March, the California Senate voted to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. According to a 2015 study by the Institute of Medicine, "if the minimum legal age to buy tobacco were raised to 21 nationwide, tobacco use would drop by 12 percent by the time today's teens reached adulthood."
Vice Mayor Chris Martorana agreed with the ordinance but reminded that there has been no fee established yet. “The idea is to create an enforcement mechanism,” he said.
The City of Hollister adopted a similar ordinance in March 2006 requiring merchants selling tobacco to purchase a $269 annual permit. If merchants sell to underage people, they will pay a fine and have their tobacco license revoked for 30 days.
Councilman Jim West asked the board if there was a problem with minors being able to buy tobacco.
Program director for the San Benito County Health and Human Services Agency Sam Perez, said, “The youth say they are able to get tobacco.”
Members of the Youth Tobacco Coalition presented the council with facts about tobacco and said they knew where to get it and that tobacco that was easily accessible to them.
West continued by saying, “I’d vote for banning smoking all together," to which the council agreed could be a possible next step.
The council members asked Perez if the Health and Human Services Agency could issue the citations but Perez said they would prefer to leave that to the local jurisdictions. Health officials instead could partner with youth organizations to see if retailers would sell tobacco products to them. A city representative could then cite the offending business.
“I think this is a step in the right direction,” said City Manager Roger Grimsley.
The next city council meeting will be held at 6 p.m. June 21 in the council chambers at City Hall on Second Street in San Juan Bautista.