Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, Oct. 20 @ 2:52 p.m. / Health, Local Government
Crescent City Finally Adopts Tobacco Retail License; Councilor Altman Explains His Opposition
Though he and his colleague Jason Greenough were in the minority, Councilor Ray Altman finally voiced his thoughts concerning a tobacco retail license.
After more than two years of testimony from health advocates and high school students, including a workshop with county supervisors, the Crescent City Council on Monday finally adopted a tobacco retail license ordinance.
Altman and Greenough dissented.
Altman, who was tight lipped in the past about his reasons for opposing a TRL, compared tobacco to marijuana and alcohol, which, he said, are more intrusive than tobacco products. He also pointed out that California voters did away with the flavored tobacco and e-cigarette products that local students early in the discussion said got their peers addicted.
But Altman said he was especially concerned about pharmacies being unable to sell tobacco products, pointing out that Rite Aid, one of two tobacco retailers in Crescent City that also function as pharmacies, filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
“I don’t think that kids go to a pharmacy on the way to get their opioid medications and buy cigarettes,” he said. “I don’t know why we have to pick on the pharmacies. I didn’t understand that from the beginning.”
Tobacco retailers in Crescent City must have a tobacco retail license by Jan. 1 or cease selling tobacco products, according to City Attorney Martha Rice. There are no license fees. It’s valid until it’s revoked, relinquished or transferred to a new owner of the same business at the same location, Rice said.
Those that are already established are eligible to apply for a TRL, according to Rice. No new licenses will be issued until the number of tobacco retailers decrease to fewer than the state average of two tobacco retailers per 2,500 residents, according to Rice.
Ten businesses currently sell tobacco within city limits, though Safeway and Rite Aid would have to stop selling tobacco products since they also operate pharmacies.
Businesses can’t advertise tobacco within 500 feet of schools, playground, parks and other places youth congregate. Advertising and selling tobacco products must be at least 5 feet away from toy, candy, snack and non-alcoholic drink stands, according to Rice.
As for enforcing the ordinance, Crescent City will focus on education and voluntary compliance, Rice said. If a business received a state citation for violating a tobacco-related rule, the city will not duplicate that citation. However, if a business owner violates the terms of his or her license continually, the TRL can be suspended or revoked.
Greenough continued to argue that a tobacco retail license is an overreach. There are already state and federal regulations, he said.
“I think adding another regulations on the books is burdensome and will hurt businesses in the longterm,” he said. “I don’t believe it’s the right thing for our city.”
The City Council reconsidered creating a tobacco retail license in March, about a year after high school students told them that flavored products get their peers hooked on e-cigarettes.
The renewed discussion followed the passage of Proposition 61, which upheld California’s ban on flavored tobacco. The city’s mirrors a similar ordinance Del Norte County approved a tobacco retail license ordinance in July 2022, though county supervisors stopped short of banning flavored products.
In April 2023, the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors made the county TRL transferable to new retailers doing business at the same location.