El Cerrito, Calif. Passes Tobacco Retailer Restrictions

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It’s been an anti-tobacco 18 months for the city of El Cerrito, Calif., and this week tobacco retailers took yet another hit as the city council passed a new licensing requirement and restrictions on what they can sell and where they can be located.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, a new tobacco retailer license requirement was passed, something that will take $485 out of a shop owner’s pocket when it goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2016. Annual renewals will cost $439.

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The city council also approved a ban on the sale of flavored tobaccos and a requirement that tobacco retailers be at least 1,000 feet from existing retailers and 500 feet from schools, parks, libraries and recreation centers. An exception can be made for areas of the city that are underserved by general stores that may carry tobacco, but those businesses would be required to get an exemption from the city before opening.

Retailers will also be required to post signage that tobacco products are only available to those persons over 18-years-old, it will require any employee to be at least 18 in order to sell tobacco, and prohibits the sale of single cigars under $5 as well as cheaply priced packs of small cigars as well as any self-service displays.

Additionally, no new retailers who get the majority of their revenue from tobacco–50 percent–or that dedicate 20 percent or more of the retail space to tobacco products will be allowed to open in the city. New cigar and hookah lounges are also prohibited from opening.

The new regulations also apply to electronic cigarettes, and a proposal to exempt pipe tobacco from the ban was defeated, according to the Daily Democrat.

While retailers will be given a two-year window to come into full compliance with the rules, penalties for violation will be harsh, as they face a ten-day suspension of their permit for a first violation, a punishment that will increase with subsequent violations.

El Cerrito is located in Contra Costa County, approximately 15 miles northeast of San Francisco. It is home to approximately 25,000 residents.

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Patrick Lagreid
About the author

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.

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