Long Beach – In an effort to encourage responsible tobacco retailing and discourage violations of youth-related tobacco laws, the Long Beach City Council approved a comprehensive and cost-effective Tobacco Retail Permit Program proposed by Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal and Smoke-Free Long Beach during the February 12, 2008 Council meeting.
Past studies have shown Long Beach’s statistics are staggering: illegal sales in 2007 to minors was 40%, up from 2005 at 36%; the statewide rate in 2005 was 10.2% and in 2007 was 10.7%.
"Clearly we have a problem in this city with illegal sales of tobacco products to underage youth," stated Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal. "The city of Long Beach has for over 100 years prided itself on protecting public health. And what is more important than our children’s health? With the adoption of this ordinance, we will be able to put some teeth into our local laws that protect children from illegal sales of tobacco."
More than 70 cities and counties in California are currently implementing Tobacco Retail Permit or License ordinances, and they report reductions in the rates of illegal tobacco sales to minors ranging from 25 to 90 percent.
The Long Beach Health Department and the Coalition For A Smoke-Free Long Beach worked for several years with local community organizations, businesses, youth, and law enforcement on preventing illegal sales to youth, including conducting a Citywide Tobacco Youth Purchase Survey, and researching and preparing this ordinance.
The Long Beach Tobacco Retail Permit Ordinance requires all retailers to pay an estimated annual permit fee of $442, which covers all costs of enforcement and operations. The permit also contains strong penalties for violations of tobacco laws, including selling to youth, selling bidis or single cigarettes, or laws related to self service displays and signs. Violations may be an infraction or a misdemeanor resulting in license suspension, license revocation, a ticket, or criminal prosecution. The ordinance is set up to provide flexibility when needed, but also to have a strong penalty for repeat offenders who ignore the law.
The ordinance was supported by the Long Beach Board of Education, the Long Beach Commission on Youth and Children, Long Beach Memorial Hospital, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, St. Mary Medical Center, Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma, local youth and local businesses.