The price of cigarettes may be on the rise, as local businesses try to make up for the cost of acquiring a Tobacco Retailer License, which will be required beginning today as part of a new county ordinance.
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the ordinance – which only affects unincorporated areas of the county, including Isla Vista – on Dec. 4. In addition to requiring a license for tobacco retailers, the ordinance also prohibits smoking within 20 feet of businesses. Although a Tobacco Retailer License is new to Santa Barbara County, 25 counties in California and 400 in the nation already have similar ordinances in effect.
The tobacco license will cost retailers $30 per year, which is meant to cover the cost of administering the license. Each individual business will need to purchase a license within a 60-day grace period that begins March 1. The licenses must display the permit prominently in the retail store.
“I’m kinda bummed. All the ordinance did is increase the prices for us to pass on to the consumer,” Mac’s Market manager Scott Rennie said.
The county has held three public meetings in the city of Santa Barbara on the issue and no retailers came to voice their opinion, County Tobacco Prevention Settlement Program Administer Dawn Dunn said. She said the ordinance is meant to help curb the sale of tobacco to minors.
“It’s about local accountability for adults and retailers,” she said.
Dunn said actual enforcement of the ordinance would be minimal because the goal is to educate businesses about tobacco sale. Penalties would be a $100 per day fine for not applying for the license or the possible suspension of the tobacco license if the retailer is caught violating any county or state tobacco law, she said.
“In our county, almost no one is cited for selling, but hundreds of minors are found with tobacco,” Dunn said.
Dunn said she hopes the retail license will help fight the problem.
“The rationale is to eliminate sales of tobacco to minors,” she said. “Requiring retailers to get a license will increase awareness and deter them from selling.”
“I think it’s unfair because it only applies to the unincorporated areas of the county and it will do nothing to prevent the sale of tobacco to minors. It is only a revenue-enhancing measure,” International Foods Market manager Shawn McGrady said.
“They should put more responsibility on the minor smokers. It’s just easier for them to target retailers because there are less of them,” I.V. Market manager Lee Johnson said.