Novato advances menthol tobacco ban

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After spearheading Marin County’s crackdown on tobacco sales 13 years ago, Novato is on track to become the last town in the county to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes.

Novato city council voted unanimously last week to advance an ordinance to add menthol cigarettes to its flavored tobacco ban initially passed in 2017. It also voted to implement a four-year delayed initiative. years to require tobacco retailers to obtain municipal licenses.

“It’s good to start and end the loop,” Bob Curry, county tobacco analyst, told City Council on Sept. 28.

In 2008, Novato enacted the county’s first tobacco restrictions, banning smoking in most public spaces and grouping living spaces such as apartments. This was followed by an order in 2017 banning the sale of most flavored tobacco; prohibits pharmacies from selling tobacco; and created, but did not launch, a tobacco licensing program. The ordinance entered into force in January 2018.

However, menthol cigarettes were not included in the flavor ban because tobacco companies were preparing to sue San Francisco, which was considering a similar ban at the time, according to Curry.

The new Novato Ordinance implements the Deferred Tobacco Retail Licensing Program. Similar licensing programs have been adopted in all other towns in Marin and by the county government.

Under Novato’s program, tobacco retailers in the city would be required to obtain licenses to sell it. Violations would result in fines and possible license revocation.

Retailers who are not licensed or whose license is suspended are not permitted to publicly display tobacco products or advertise tobacco products.

City plans apply the licensing program, if approved, after March 1.

City staff said “staff turnover and competing priorities” caused the four-year delay in launching the licensing program and adding menthol to the flavor ban.

The new ordinance includes changes to the 2017 rules following concerns expressed by tobacco retailers about over-regulation.

The order waives the $ 50 fee for tobacco retail licenses. It also allows tobacco vendors to be 18 and over, not 21 as originally proposed.

Additionally, a first violation of city tobacco rules would only result in an initial warning, as opposed to a fine and possible license suspension. Retailers have said losing their licenses will spell the end of their businesses.

Some tobacco retailers, tobacco organizations and residents attended the meeting to oppose the ban on menthol cigarettes.

Monty Walia, a local retailer, told the council that the ban would only result in people chasing out of the county to buy tobacco and reduce local sales of other items that could increase the city’s tax revenue.

“Individuals are addicted to nicotine and not the mentholated cigarette themselves,” Walia told the council.

Others have expressed concerns about the government’s overbreadth.

Jaime Rojas, a representative of the National Association of Tobacco Shops, said his organization supported the city’s licensing program but not the menthol ban.

Anti-smoking organizations have welcomed the new ordinance.

Phillip Gardiner, co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, called the ordinance “a bold and important step.”

“We are in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic. Anything that increases smoking increases lung infections, ”Gardiner told the council. “I think you are doing the right thing by doing this. “

The ordinance is expected to return to council for final adoption at a future meeting and would come into effect 30 days after that.


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