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    Tackling Tobacco: July 2016 Legislative & Regulatory Roundup

    Tax increases take center stage.

    By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News

    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.


    Sacramento — The Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Amendment will appear on the November ballot. The measure would increase California's state cigarette tax by $2 per pack, with an equivalent increase on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes containing nicotine.

    Revenue from the levy would primarily be used to increase funding for existing healthcare programs, tobacco use prevention/control programs, tobacco-related disease research, law enforcement, University of California physician training, dental disease prevention programs, and administration. The tax is estimated to generate $1.8 billion, according to the Office of the Attorney General. 

    Cigarettes have not seen a tax increase for almost 20 years, according to the California Legislature, holding steady at 87 cents per pack.

    San Marcos — The San Marcos City Council voted in favor of a move to require tobacco and electronic cigarette retailers to obtain a special license. California already calls for tobacco retailers to have a special retail license; however, more than 100 municipalities have local ordinances as well.

    San Marcos set its license fee at approximately $190 per retailer. The fees will fund regular compliance checks on tobacco sellers. The city will provide discounts to stores meeting certain criteria, such as regular staff training on how to sell tobacco, use of magnetic age-verification readers, and elimination of tobacco product ads on windows or doors.

    The ordinance will go into effect later this summer, and retailers will need to obtain their licenses by the end of the year.


    Denver — The Campaign for a Healthy Colorado is pushing an effort to increase the state's cigarette tax by $1.75 per pack and increase the tax on other tobacco products like cigars and chewing tobacco by 22 percent.

    This measure will raise about $315 million a year, according to the coalition. Among other uses, the funds would be dedicated to research to prevent and improve treatment of certain diseases; medical and mental health care for 500,000 Colorado veterans; to increase access to health care in rural and underserved areas; and expand access to youth behavioral health services.


    Oak Park — The legal age to buy tobacco products here increased to 21 on Aug. 1. The Village Board unanimously approved the ordinance in early June. In addition, the board raised the minimum penalty for anyone selling tobacco products to customers under the age of 21 to $100. Anyone underage caught purchasing or possessing tobacco products will face a minimum $25 fine.

    Businesses that sell tobacco products will be required to have someone aged 21 or older perform the sale. However, the board approved a one-year grace period to allow local businesses to prepare for the change. The requirement that sellers be at least 21 will not go into effect until Aug. 1, 2017.


    Boston — A bill to raise the statewide tobacco buying age from 18 to 21 was not expected to reach a vote in the legislature by the July 31 deadline. More than 80 municipalities across Massachusetts have already passed similar ordinances. To date, California and Hawaii are the only states in the country to raise the legal age to buy tobacco to 21.

    Plymouth — The Board of Health here turned down three tobacco-related proposals on July 13. The measures sought to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products and electronic cigarettes, ban the sale of flavored tobacco products to all individuals regardless of age, and ban the sale of cigars priced under $2.50.


    Columbia — The city's Board of Health is reviewing a proposal to require a retail outlet to obtain a license to sell tobacco. Missouri is one of 10 states that has federal regulations for tobacco sales, but not state regulations. Jefferson City and Kansas City both require a tobacco retail license. The board is slated to discuss the issue at its August meeting. It will also hold a public hearing in September.

    Jefferson City — The Missouri Supreme Court decided not to weigh in on an appeal of a ruling that ordered a change to Jefferson City's ballot proposal, which seeks to phase in a 60-cent increase to the state's 17-cent-a-pack cigarette levy. The original ruling said the ballot proposal summary, prepared by Secretary of State Jason Kander's office, should have noted a separate, new 67-cent-per-pack fee on some cigarette brands will rise annually.

    On a related note, opponents to the ballot proposal filed two new lawsuits arguing signatures collected to put the initiative on the November ballot are invalid. Kander must decide if the petition is valid by Aug. 9.

    At issue here is a larger fight between bigger and smaller tobacco companies doing business in Missouri. The Raise Your Hand for Kids initiative would raise the tax on tobacco by 60 cents a pack. A provision could raise the tax by up to $1.27 for smaller tobacco companies in an attempt to level the playing field. Smaller tobacco companies do not have to make the government payments to Missouri and other states imposed by a 1998 court settlement.


    Cortland County — County officials approved a proposal to prohibit the sale of tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes and vapor products, to anyone under 21. The new buying age goes into effect Oct. 1.

    Ithaca — The Tompkins County Health Department is discussing a proposal to change the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. Several counties in New York State have already increased to that age. 


    Bismarck — The Raise It for Health North Dakota coalition delivered a petition to raise the state's tobacco tax to the state's Secretary of State. The petition contained more than 22,000 signatures. State law requires 13,452 validated and approved signatures to reach the ballot in November.

    The measure seeks to increase the tax on cigarettes from 44 cents per pack to $2.20 per pack. The tax on other tobacco products, including liquid nicotine, would go from 28 percent to 56 percent of the wholesale purchase price.


    Harrisburg — Beginning Aug. 1, Pennsylvania's cigarette tax jumps $1 to $2.60 per pack. The increase pushes its excise tax to the 10th highest in the country.

    In Philadelphia, the increase coupled with a $2-per-pack levy that the city tacked on in 2014 puts the overall levy in the city at $4.60.

    Pittsburgh — The Allegheny County Board of Health approved draft regulations to restrict the use of electronic cigarettes in public places within the county. The proposed rules follow the county's existing Clean Indoor Air Act, regulating tobacco smoking, but they also define special e-cigarette establishments where vaping would be allowed.

    The board is accepting public comment on the issue before it votes on a final version. If passed, the measure would be sent to the county council for final approval. The next county health board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 14.

    By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News
    • About Melissa Kress Melissa Kress joined Stagnito Business Information's Convenience Store News and Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner in November 2010. Her primary beats include alcoholic beverages and tobacco. Kress has been a professional journalist since 1995. A graduate of West Virginia University, she began her career in community journalism before moving to business-to-business publishing in 2000, covering commercial real estate.

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