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    Tobacco Permits Likely in California

    Lawmakers say permit fees necessary to combat teen smoking.

    SACRAMENTO -- City officials are crafting an ordinance -- like 35 others in California -- that would ban mobile vendors from selling cigarettes and force every tobacco retailer to buy an annual permit.

    The permit fee would help finance increased enforcement of laws that prevent minors from buying smokes, which young people participating in a June undercover survey in Sacramento were able to do about a quarter of the times they tried, The Los Angeles Times reported.

    "Ninety percent of the people who start smoking are teenagers," Sacramento Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy said. "We decided this is something the city needs to take hold of."

    As proposed, the ordinance would require all the nearly 1,000 retailers in the city that sell cigarettes to buy a $150 to $350 tobacco permit each year. Code enforcement officers would inspect retailers to see that their signs and displays are in line with state and federal laws. Police would lead undercover stings to nab retailers who sell to minors.

    If permit holders violate laws, local officials could suspend their license to sell tobacco for 30 days -- and longer for each violation.

    John Yoon, owner of the A & P convenience store, said the extra fee would be a hit when his sales are already down. "It's bad all around," he said. "No one has any money now."

    Yoon already pays about $500 each year in other permit fees but extends some hope for the tobacco permit idea. It may solve some problems, much like a city ordinance -- that he derided at first -- restricting single beer sales. "That cleaned things up," he said. There aren't any more panhandlers "out there asking for a dollar."

    Los Angeles has a tobacco permit law, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will consider one this week. The get-tough measures that loom over some retailers' right to sell cigarettes follow years of public-awareness campaigns, the report said.

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