The Independence City Council took a bold step on Monday night in their fight to reduce the amount of tobacco retailers in the city, approving a proposal that will cut the number of tobacco retail licenses for non-fuel selling businesses in half, from 14 to seven.
The move will not strip any existing businesses of their licenses unless they violate one of the conditions of the law, but no new licenses will be granted until there are less than seven in circulation.
“In our strategic plan, Independence for All, we outline the need to improve public health – tonight’s change does just that,” councilmember Curt Dougherty said in a statement issued by the city. “While our Tobacco 21 initiative has moved us in the right direction, tobacco is still the nation’s number one cause of preventable death. There are still statistics showing our youth do not understand the dangers of these tobacco products.”
For an existing tobacco or convenience store to lose its license, it would have to meet one or more of the following criteria: ceasing operations for six months; allowing a required business license to lapse; failing to show use has been maintained in the structure for a period of six months; a demolition permit has been applied for; removal of equipment and furnishings and failure to replace it with similar items within six months; the property has been accused of illegal activities or the use has failed to comply with city ordinances or state or federal law; or if required by city health code, the property has not had water and/or electrical service for six consecutive months.
The full text of the ordinance can be found here.
The move follows up an increase in the minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21-years-old, which was passed in Dec. 2015.
Independence is the fourth-largest city in the state of Missouri with a population of just over 117,000 residents. It is located about 10 miles east of Kansas City.