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NATIONAL REPORT — Tobacco legislation and regulation is constantly under review at the local, state and federal levels. In this monthly roundup, Convenience Store News highlights the latest proposals and approved changes happening across the United States.
Douglas — The Douglas City Council voted unanimously to raise the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. The vote makes Chandler the second city in Arizona — Cottonwood being the first — to pass Tobacco 21 legislation. The new law goes into effect Aug. 11.
Contra Costa — In a unanimous vote, the Board of Supervisors passed legislation prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds, and libraries in unincorporated parts of the county.
Other provisions adopted at the board's July 18 meeting include no-sales of tobacco products in pharmacies, and a requirement prohibiting the sale of any cigarillos and little cigars in packs smaller than 10. Additionally, no new tobacco retailer licenses will be granted to businesses located within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds or libraries, or within 500 feet of another business that sells tobacco.
Most of the new regulations take effect on Aug. 17. Education and outreach will be conducted with retailers over the next few months, and retailers are expected to be fully compliant with the no-sale of tobacco products provision no later than Jan. 1.
Oakland — Weeks after San Francisco's decision to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products, the Oakland lawmakers have approved a measure to follow suit. Like in San Francisco, the ordinance would include menthol tobacco products. A second approval is required in September before the ban can go into effect in 2018.
Rancho Cucamonga — The City Council is reviewing a measure that would amend the definition of smoking to include electronic cigarettes, vapor devices and hookah. The ordinance was introduced at a council meeting in mid-July and would prohibit the use of those devices where smoking is banned.
Champaign — Officials with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD) are recommending businesses, including restaurants and bars, prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes on their premises. In Champaign County at least 300 businesses and organizations already have e‐cigarette‐free policies. Additional e‐cigarette prevention recommendations include better enforcement of existing age restriction laws and reduced e‐cigarette marketing.
CUPHD released an infographic highlighting the health hazards of e‐cigarettes, as well as recommended solutions to protect public health.
Eagle Lake — City Council members in Eagle Lake have decided not to take up the issue of raising the legal minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21. In July, the council held a public hearing to discuss the possibility of joining with nearby towns, Mankato and North Mankato, on Tobacco 21 efforts. Eagle Lake lawmakers, however, dropped the matter when no one spoke at the meeting.
St. Louis Park — St. Louis Park became the second city in Minnesota to hike the legal minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. The new regulation, which also raises fines associated with selling the products to anyone under 21, goes into effect Oct. 1. A first offense would result in a fine between $250 and $500, and a second offense between $500 and $1,000. A third offense in the span of three years would result in a 30-day tobacco license suspension.
Oklahoma City — R.J Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Phillip Morris USA have joined Oklahoma wholesale and retail business owners in a lawsuit challenging the state's recently approved cigarette fee. The $1.50-per-pack fee was approved as a way to raise money and curb smoking. Oklahoma officials estimate the fee could bring in more than $200 million through June 2018. It would go into effect at the end of August.
Calling the fee a tax, the lawsuit argues it is unconstitutional because the bill originated in the state Senate and lawmakers sent it to Gov. Mary Fallin in the final day of the legislative session by a slim margin.
Oklahoma's Constitution requires that revenue-raising bills have to originate in the House, must pass with at least 75 percent of the legislature's approval and must be sent to the governor's desk before the final five days of session. By calling it a tax, the tobacco companies are effectively arguing that the bill was a revenue-raising measure.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court will hear the case on Aug. 8.