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Oakland, Calif. Closes Loophole on Flavored Tobacco Sales, Sets Minimum Pricing

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On Tuesday, the Oakland City Council closed a loophole that allowed for the sale of flavored tobacco products despite the city banning them in Feb. 2017.

That loophole created an exemption for tobacco stores that were limited to adults, though had become exploited to create sections in gas stations and convenience stores. A press release by Tobacco Free Kids put that number at 55 such locations that were getting around the ban in such a manner.

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The ordinance also redefined a cigar, defining it as “any roll of tobacco other than a cigarette wrapped entirely or in part in tobacco or in any substance containing tobacco and weighing more than three pounds per thousand,” while adding a separate definition of a little cigar as “any roll of tobacco other than a cigarette wrapped entirely or in part in tobacco or any substance containing tobacco and weighing no more than three pounds per thousand.” It includes but it not limited to what are known and referred to as small cigars, little cigars, or cigarillos.

Additionally, the city set pricing minimums and packaging requirements for tobacco products. Most notably, retailers are prohibited from offering a cigar for sale if it is priced at less than $8 per cigar, including all taxes and fees. Cigarettes must be priced at at least $8 per pack of 20, and little cigars must be priced at at least $8 per package, which must contain at least 20 little cigars. Little cigars are no longer able to be sold in a packaging format containing less than 20.

Those prices are also designated to be adjusted annually based on a percentage change in the annual average in proportion with the Consumer Price Index based on all urban consumers for all items for the San Francisco–Oakland– Hayward statistical area as reported by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics or any successor to that index.

Violators of the revised ordinance will also face stiffer penalties, including losing their license for 15 days following a first violation as well as a $1,000 fine, while a second violation comes with a 45-day suspension and $5,000 fine. Both of those come with a five year window for when the counter would reset.

The ordinance passed by a 8-0 vote, with the changes going into effect in 90 days.

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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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